CASA GRANDE, Ariz.—PanAridus L.L.C.'s latest patent, the first ever to aid guayule harvesting, is a major step in the company's quest to achieve guayule rubber commercialization, according to PanAridus CEO Mike Fraley.
“Our whole program is to make this an economically feasible project,” Fraley said. “We have had to validate the process and reduce the risk at every step.”
PanAridus further advanced this program in December 2015 when it patented a near infrared spectroscopy machine that scientifically measures the rubber, resin and moisture content of a guayule plant while it is still in the ground.
Although the patent is new, Fraley said, PanAridus has been using NIR technology for some time.
“It takes a while to receive a patent,” he said. “NIR is an integral part of our operations. It has been used in many different sectors for a long time now.”
NIR is an important tool in several ways for PanAridus, according to Fraley. It helps farmers in the field know when to harvest guayule, and it also allows the company to create a library of rubber and resin content in different plant strains.
“We have developed a library that has given us the catalyst to be successful with guayule genetics,” he said.
Meanwhile, the NIR technology continues to advance, Fraley said. PanAridus will have a new “Beta” NIR system shortly; not only will the Beta system be faster, he said, but it will also help the company measure the effects of different temperatures on guayule in the field.
All of PanAridus' previous nine patents before the NIR patent were in the fields of guayule breeding and genetics. “Making guayule yield more is the number one goal,” he said.
The company also has a patent pending for direct seeding of guayule, which Fraley said is crucial to the commercialization of guayule.
An August 2015 ride-and-drive in Texas, featuring tires manufactured by Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. partly with PanAridus guayule rubber, was a total success, he said.
The next project for Cooper and Pan-Aridus, scheduled for the first half of 2017, is a 100 percent guayule tire.
PanAridus is actively seeking equity partners to take the company to the next level toward becoming a commercial operation, according to Fraley.
“The extraction of high-quality polymers has been accomplished,” he said. “Demonstrating the viability of guayule as a commercial crop has been accomplished. We've shown the good value and economics of our operation.
“None of this happens without high-quality genetics and seed,” he said. “We can plant up to 100,000 acres of guayule in the desert Southwest, and that's what's meaningful.”