NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Through three new and ongoing projects, Bridgestone Americas is making good on its plans to make rubber and byproducts from the southwestern desert shrub guayule commercially viable for a wide range of industries, according to the company.
"We're not just creating a technology," said Bill Niaura, Bridgestone Americas director of new business development. "We are creating an industry that doesn't yet exist in the U.S."
The first project, announced Feb. 12, is Bridgestone's agreement with Versalis, the Italian polymers and elastomers giant, to develop and deploy a comprehensive technology package to commercialize guayule not only as a sustainable source of natural rubber, but also an important agricultural crop and a valuable addition to the renewable chemical sector.
Four days later, Bridgestone announced its collaboration with NRGene, a genomic big solutions company, to enhance guayule breeding by sequencing and assembling multiple guayule genomes for faster, more accurate and more efficient breeding.
The Bridgestone-NRGene collaboration has the strong potential to accelerate guayule breeding as much as six times, from three years to six months, thus speeding up commercial development of the plant, according to Niaura.
The tire maker also announced Feb. 16 that it is the key industrial partner in a $15 million, five-year research grant given last September by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute for Food and Agriculture.
Bridgestone will work with researchers from the University of Arizona, the Colorado School of Mines, Colorado State University, New Mexico State University and the USDA Agricultural Research Service to continue research and development in guayule, the company said.