With a workforce of 12 people, impressive headquarters in New Castle, Del., and significant funding to further develop proprietary technology, White Dog Labs, Inc., appears well positioned for major growth advances within the next year or two.
“We’re largely pre-revenue, but we own and operate demonstration technology, and we’re pretty darn close to closing in on major developments,” said co-founder and CEO Bryan Tracy, Ph.D.
Tracy is very well known in the local chemical technology arena. In addition to founding White Dog a few years ago — “we sell technology, not our brand,” he laughs — he also founded Elcriton, which was then acquired by White Dog. He also heads the board of DESCA, the Delaware Sustainable Chemistry Association, and has served on the supplemental faculty of the University of Delaware.
Tracy speaks frequently about the industry and the wealth of talent found in Delaware — he was a speaker at the U.S. Department of Energy Bioenergy Technologies Office’s 2016 conference. He is also passionate about public service and youth development, as he serves as board chair of the Forum for the Advancement of Minorities in Engineering (FAME), is an inaugural mentor in the Delaware Youth Leadership Network and is a Leadership Delaware fellow. He is a well-published expert in genetic engineering and bioprocess development and the recipient of numerous national and international research grants.
Most startups try to address an unmet need, and White Dog Labs has targeted a mammoth one — to develop biotechnologies to address global challenges, including food sustainability and climate change. To this end, Tracy and his colleagues have invented a novel class of fermentation technologies that has the potential to improve the efficiency of fermentation processes by 50 to 100 percent. They also seek to advance economic advantages by improving bio-products. If successful, Tracy says, the technologies would aid industries that produce fuels, chemicals and protein-rich feeds.
This will be accomplished through a technology platform, MixoFerm, which enables White Dog Labs’ FlexFeedstock fermentation process. Each process employs proprietary microorganisms and fermentation processes to feed and convert carbohydrates — such as sugars — and gases — including carbon dioxide, hydrogen and carbon monoxide — into nearly any desired biochemical. With the right combination of sugar and gas, Zero-CO2-Fermentation™ can be achieved with no carbon dioxide emissions as byproducts of the fermentation process, a very positive environmental outcome.
As Tracy points out, the petrochemical and fuel industry grew over the past 150 years by using feedstocks, such as petroleum, natural gas and coal, which are all very rich in energy. In contrast, biomass and carbohydrate feedstocks possess less energy per unit of mass. Thus, the challenge for the newer class of bio-based feedstocks is to produce the same chemicals and fuels that the petrochemical industry produces, while having higher efficiencies and yields to do so. MixoFerm addresses this challenge, Tracy says, by adding energy to the fermentation process in the form of energy-dense gases.
To meet its goals, White Dog Labs is now scaling up its technologies to produce a ton-per-day demonstration production for sustainable protein, biochemical and fuel production. The business needs are there, and White Dog Labs believes it is well on the road to meeting them.
This article appeared in the premiere issue of Delaware Innovation Magazine, an overview of the state’s cutting edge industries and the people leading them. See the whole issue here.