One of humanity’s oldest crops has had a makeover thanks to a collaboration between cleantech startup GO Resources and Australian leaders in cutting-edge plant innovation, CSIRO and the Grains Research and Development Corporation. The result is super high oleic (SHO) safflower, a sustainable plant oil that’s versatile enough to replace many of the industrial uses of petroleum and palm-based oils – from plastics to cosmetics.
GO Resources’ hunt for investors has been given a leg up by the growAG. platform, which connects the world to Australian agrifood innovators. GrowAG. senior manager Arianna Sippel said that the platform “makes it easy to explore, identify, and connect with Australian innovators like GO Resources.”
“It highlights exciting commercial opportunities and research projects, amplifying awareness and creating connections that help bring these innovative solutions to market,” she explained.
Enviable performance advantages set SHO safflower oil well ahead of its competitors
Renewable, recyclable, and fully biodegradable, with a net-zero carbon impact, SHO safflower meets the growing demand for sustainable products. And it’s strong on performance, too.
Key to its success is the abundant level of a naturally occurring and industrially significant monounsaturated fatty acid: oleic acid, the driver of the global oleochemical industry – a market tipped to reach $34.5 billion in value by 2027.
“Our SHO safflower produces 92% oleic acid per litre of oil. It’s by far the highest purity of any commercially available plant oil,” said GO Resources director and Australian grain industry veteran David Hudson.
While its superior chemical profile lends SHO safflower to versatile applications, GO Resources is targeting key high-value sectors. And just three seasons in, they’ve gained domestic and global market traction.
SHO safflower is being sold as a premium omega-9 cooking oil by Australian supermarket giant, Woolworths; as a base oil with outstanding shelf life for the global personal care category; and as transformer oil to India, where its higher electrical resistance and reusability has earned a supply contract with one of the world’s largest producers of transformer oil products.
But the holy grail is the burgeoning global market for bio-based lubricants, greases, and hydraulic fluids, which GO Resources’ analysis estimates to be currently worth $22 billion. With funding from the Australian government, work is underway to develop products that capitalize on SHO safflower oil’s performance advantages across this category: reduced engine wear, lower emissions, and better fuel economy.
“There’s been so much interest already. We’ve got customers whose first order will be more than we’re currently producing, so our immediate goal is to get more growers on board to increase and sustain production going forward,” Hudson said.
On-farm sustainability benefits pique grower interest
Currently, around 4,500 hectares of SHO safflower is grown across Australia. However, Hudson is confident GO Resources will reach its target of 100,000 hectares within six years. He has good reason to be optimistic, with the novel crop offering significant agronomic advantages that will appeal to growers across the major grain-growing regions of the country.
SHO safflower tolerates heat and drought, ameliorates sodic and saline soils, and is suited to dryland or irrigated production throughout Australia’s core grain-growing areas, as well as subtropical farming regions where crops such as sugar cane are cultivated. It requires minimal inputs and, when used in rotation, can break the life cycle of common crop diseases, pests, and weeds.
“Safflower has a deep tap root, so it’s able to access moisture and nutrients that other crops can’t,” Hudson explained. “Our research has shown that, by improving soil structure, SHO safflower increases the yield of the rotation crop which follows it. That’s really appealing to growers.”
Sustainability is a recurring theme of the commercial opportunities showcased on growAG., said Sippel.
“Australia’s agrifood sector has a strong focus on innovating to improve on-farm productivity in a sustainable way, and on supplying innovative products that meet consumer demands for sustainability.” she explained.
One example is Solution Blue, an Australian insect protein producer that has already signed supply agreements with insect-based pet food producer (and fellow growAG. alumni) Buggy Blend and is now looking to scale production to provide a sustainable feedstock alternative for the aquaculture sector.
Supply chain leveraging speeds product development and commercialisation – at lower cost
GO Resources is set up for sustainable growth, having made the decision early on to collaborate with existing supply chain partners rather than establish the necessary infrastructure themselves.
“We’re working with partners along the entire supply chain — from plant breeding to seed production, grain handling, crushing, processing, and refining — who already have the expertise and infrastructure to deliver high-quality product,” Hudson said.
It’s a low-risk business model that delivers not just capex savings, but the flexibility to draw on different partners to tailor their products to meet varying customer demands – be that crude oil, or value-added refined product.
With the hard work done, GO Resources is seeking investors to expand market reach
GO Resources offers investors a unique opportunity to support global expansion of SHO safflower in a market with a rapidly growing demand for sustainable oils. While the intellectual property resides with CSIRO, GO Resources has secured the exclusive license to commercialize the technology. It’s also licensed by Australia’s Office of the Gene Technology Regulator as the only company that can commercially grow SHO safflower in Australia.
“We’re looking for a platform investment of $5 million to scale our business model, and expand market development initiatives to bring this game-changing product to market,” Hudson said.
“SHO safflower is a quantum leap ahead for farming. It meets a critical industrial need, is environmentally sustainable, and benefits growers, industry, and consumers. We’ve done the hard work and momentum is building. Now is the perfect time to bring investors on board to capture the growth opportunity.”
Sippel added: “The Australian agrifood sector has a long history of innovation, and it’s really gathering pace. Our depth of R&D expertise, the diversity of climatic zones, and varied production systems are breeding confidence and interest in what we’re doing – and in how we’re solving the big problems.” GO Resources exemplifies that.
Learn more about GO Resources investment opportunities here.