It needs to be optimistic to transform wildflower into a major new oilseed crop. A small North Carolina-based specialty crops company is trying to do just that to produce an alternative to coconut and palm oils.
After 20 years history of applauding development, Cuphea (koo-FEE-ah) will start its second planting this spring in the Midwestern United States. Along with lauric acid, the plant’s seeds contain novel fatty acids used as a wetting and foaming agent in soaps, detergents, shampoos, toothpaste and even airplane fuel. With this venture, Cuphea could reduce U.S. reliance on imported tropical oils like palm and coconut. To add to this, it could also cut dependency on some petrochemicals and give American farmers a new crop to rotate with corn.
“It’s grown (as a crop) nowhere else in the world,” said Andrew Hebard, chief executive of Technology Crops International in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, which is leading the commercialization of cuphea.