Solaris properties

The benefits of Solaris can be exploited in various ways. This makes Solaris suitable as a feedstock for the bioenergy market. Solaris can be a local source of high protein feed and possibly supply a new kind of plant protein. And a completely different application can be the production of pharmaceutical proteins, using Solaris as a biopharming platform.


Click one of the features to learn more about Solaris

Multi-purpose crop Sustainable use Well known species Improved seed production High yield Novel protein source Nicotine and GMO-free Community development

Multi-purpose crop

When biorefinery principles are applied to Solaris a wide range of products for different markets are obtained. The seed can be pressed for oil, used as feed additive or for conversion to biofuel. After pressing a seedcake rich in protein is left, perfect as feed for monastic animals. From the biomass green protein for human consumption can be extracted.

Sustainable use

Solaris is recognized by the Round Table on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB) for its low environmental footprint and socially responsible production chain. By using Solaris for local feed production, deforestation and transport in the conventional feed chain can be avoided.

Well known species

Solaris is a variety/cultivar of the well-known ‘normal’ tobacco species Nicotiana tabacum. Existing tobacco farmers can easily switch from producing smoking tobacco to growing Solaris, utilizing existing knowledge and infrastructure.

Improved seed production

Conventional tobacco produces large leaves but little seed. Solaris has a largely improved seed production, yielding about 5000 seeds/plant. Combined with an oil content of about 38%, sunflower and rapeseed are easily outcompeted by Solaris oil productivity.

High yield

The strong and fast growing tobacco plant Solaris produces a large amount of biomass. When the inflorescence is harvested for the seed, the plant can remain in the field and regrow the top part, producing up to 3 harvests of seed.

Novel protein source

The Solaris biomass and seed is rich in protein. The high yields and diverse growing climates make Solaris a perfect candidate for providing a novel source of plant protein. 

Nicotine and GMO-free

Solaris was created using traditional breeding techniques, thus is a non-GMO variety/cultivar. The nicotine levels are x times lower than conventional tobacco/ undetectably low.

Community development

Introducing Solaris to local communities will boost economic activity and provide for a local source of income and feed for animal husbandry. Apart from job creation, also investments can be drawn to the area due to increased agricultural activity.


Creation of Solaris

In the years 1990 – 2002 the Italian professor Dr. Corrado Fogher spend countless efforts in selecting offspring of Nicotiana tabacum for specific phenotypic traits. Nicotiana tabacum is the well-known tabacco species of which other varieties are used for smoking tobacco production. The phenotype is the combination of all characteristics of a plant that can be observed, a trait is certain behavior following from these characteristics. One of the traits that prof. Fogher was selecting for was low nicotine content. After many cycles of growing, testing and selecting the nicotine level of the plants dropped below the detection limit. This opened up the way for protein extraction from Solaris without nicotine ending up in the final product.

The number of flowers and amount of seeds per seedpod was the second important trait identified for optimization. Conventional tobacco has only a few branches in the top producing a few flowers with little seed. Prof. Fogher succeeded in increasing the seed output tremendously. The current Solaris produces up to 5000 seeds per seedpod! As all of these seeds contain oil, the oil productivity of Solaris was greatly improved. This entitles Solaris a position in the biofuel feedstock industry.

After these achievements, breeding combined with outside trials was continued to stabilize the obtained traits and improve Solaris robustness and pest resistance. This made Solaris fit for larger agronomic trials to build farming experience.

Farming experience

Sunchem has abundant experience in growing Solaris in a variety of climates and soils. Field trials were performed in 16 countries and some multiple year trials continue to date. These trials showed that Solaris can cope with many different soil types and, as known for tobacco, can grow in a large part of the worlds climates. During these years the agronomic protocol for optimal performance of Solaris was finished.
In South Africa farming on commercial scale was rolled out in season 2015-
2016. This led to the production of 18 tons of oil, converted to bio-kerosine for the 2016 test flights with Boeing and South African Airways.



Sunchem values a positive impact on the environment of paramount importance. Furthermore we consider improving the socio-economic development of local communities as one of our main goals. Introduction of Solaris cultivation can be very valuable for the environment and local communities. Because of the high yield of the crop it requires less land than currently used oil crops. Solaris also produces multiple products at once, this reduces the risk for the farmer as there is no dependence on a single market. The fast growing plant absorbs a lot of carbon per ha and by producing feed locally also emissions related to transport are omitted.  Solaris can be grown on land not suitable for food production and is a perfect replacement for tobacco farmers who currently see the demand for smoking tobacco drop. 
Since 2015 the Solaris project in South Africa is certified by the internationally recognized Round Table on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB). This certification shows that Sunchem adheres to the high environmental and social standards in its production processes and ensures that local communities are positively impacted.

Patent & registrations

Sunchem holds the industrial patent for tobacco use as source of energy, feed and food (PCT/IB/2007/053412). The patent has been deposited in 120 countries worldwide and granted in over a 100 including USA, all African countries, EuroAsia, Italy, Russia and Australia.

Also the breeder rights remain with Sunchem, registered under number 13059 at the Italian Ministry of Agriculture (march 2011). Sunchem SA and Sunchem do Brasil registered Solaris in resp. South Africa and Brazil.