About Sunchem

About Sunchem

Sunchem is a developing Agro-technology company exploring the possibilities of the new multi-purpose crop Solaris. Solaris is a non-GMO and nicotine free tobacco variety. Prof. Corrado Fogher selected the Solaris plant to have a high yield of seed, containing oil. The seed and leaves also contain high levels of protein. Currently we are working on maximizing the value proposition by using all the components of Solaris. When you are interested in our activities, feel free to contact the Sunchem team.


The Solaris variety was created in the 1990s when the Italian professor Corrado Fogher bred tobacco by mutagenesis with the aim of producing medicine in the seeds.  Mutagenesis is the process where natural mutations are induced artificially, resulting in a large genetic variety from which can be selected for specific traits. Solaris was the result of selecting against nicotine and for plants with a more branched top. More branches in the top means more room for flowers and thus allows for more seeds, also the number of seeds per seed pod was increased. It wasn’t until 10 years later that the full potential of Solaris as an energy source was discovered. Sunchem was founded in 2007 in Italy. Still under Prof. Foghers supervision field trials were performed in order to develop the agronomic knowledge to cultivate Solaris on larger scale. The company filed an international patent for the processing of tobacco for energy and food uses (Fogher, 2013). In 2013 Sunchem South Africa opened and scale-up began under Project Solaris. The aim of Project Solaris is to show that Solaris is suitable as local feedstock for sustainable aviation fuel, the project is carried out with partners Boeing, South African Airways and SkyNRG. This led to Africa’s first biofuel flight on 15 July 2016. In 2017 Sunchem BV was incorporated in the Netherlands and an office in Amsterdam was opened. From there research for alternative applications of Solaris is coordinated. Business cases for biofuel and feed are developed and possibilities in food and pharma markets are investigated. In Italy selection continues until today to improve robustness against harsh conditions and disease. And in South Africa, Brazil and several other countries trials with local partners continue. This is how a valid idea of Prof. Fogher led to an industrial crop with the possibility to play a large role in improving self-sufficiency and sustainability of feed and energy by local cultivation.



Sunchem has 4 offices worldwide. The headquarters is Sunchem BV in the Netherlands, Amsterdam. Italy is the founding place of Sunchem. Now Sunchem Italy coordinates the breeding and seed selection operations together with yearly field experiments. In South Africa multiple larger scale field trials are running, managed from the Sunchem SA office. Sunchem do Brasil leads the field trials and expansion in Brazil.


Sergio Tommasini

Sergio Tommasini


Sergio has a Law degree and MBA in International Business Management obtained in the United States, where he later started his professional career in the banking sector. Now returned to Italy he is Managing Director of two companies involved with biofuel and waste management, Idroedil and Sunchem. He believes we should use waste in the best possible way and drives innovations in biofuel production.

Hayo de Feijter

Hayo de Feijter


Hayo holds a Bsc degree in Crop production/ arable farming from HAS Den Bosch and a MSc in General Management from Nyenrode Business University. He has been active in various companies focussed on biofuel in China, Tanzania and South Africa before running the Sunchem office in Amsterdam and operations in South Africa. Hayo believes it is important to anticipate on major shifts in energy and protein markets.

Samantha Hampton

Samantha Hampton

Business development & sustainability

Samantha completed a Bsc. and Msc. in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Cape Town as well as a Meng Renewable and Sustainable Energy Engineering at Stellenbosch University.  Samantha is managing the agronomic projects in South Africa and for licensees in other African countries. Her experience in sustainability assessment led to the RSB certification of Sunchem. Samantha believes Solaris can have a major impact on energy and income self-sufficiency for the African continent.

Sergio Detoie

Sergio Detoie

Director Sunchem do Brasil

Sergio is an international business professional focused on business development with more than 16 years’ experience in B2B consultative sales, international marketing, market expansion, project management, market entry, commercial, sales and general management. He completed a double master degree (Business Administration and Marketing) from Melbourne Business School (University of Melbourne) and an MBA Marketing and Sales from New York University. As director and shareholder of Sunchem do Brazil Sergio drives the expansion of Sunchem in the Brazilian market.

Massimo Zuin

Massimo Zuin

Chief Agronomist

As a senior agronomist Massimo has been involved in the agronomic development of Solaris for several years. He started studying and testing this variety in 2010, before that year he had just worked with ‘traditional tobacco’. In the past years Massimo learnt about Solaris, its characteristics, peculiarities and almost all its secrets...almost. He believes that in the global scenario of energy crops, Solaris could have a strategic role, in particular due to its characteristics and yields. “It is my aim to fulfil this role everyday that I pursue with my work.

Francesco Di Lucia

Francesco Di Lucia


Francesco completed a doctorate at the University of Molise on the ‘Defence and quality of agricultural production, food and forestry’. He has experience as an agronomist on international projects. For Sunchem he works together with Massimo on the further development, agronomic protocol and field testing of Solaris, supporting the trial sites internationally. Francesco believes sustainable and organic agriculture is key to stop climate change. Solaris is a huge opportunity for global agriculture.

Boudewijn Brandt

Boudewijn Brandt

Process Specialist

Boudewijn holds a bachelor in chemistry and a master in Biotechnology from Wageningen University. From projects on algal biodiesel and bioplastic production he has experience in process design. At Sunchem he is involved with the technical side of product development and process optimization. Boudewijn believes it is important to combine the power of nature and technology to solve world problems.

Massimo Mela

Massimo Mela

Paolo Cecchi

Paolo Cecchi

International Law & Contracts


Members of the board

Michael Knap, Atlas Invest

Maarten van Dijk, CEO at SkyNRG


Joost Van Lier, from Blue World Carbon

Valentina Predazzi, Ph.D, Società Italiana Brevetti Rome (SIB)

Rolf Hogan, Director of the Round Table of Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB)



Bio-jet-fuel International Platform and market leader. Since 2012 the company is active in feedstock souring as well. Over the past years, SkyNRG has been in contact with the investors of Sunchem SA, and followed the developments of the Solaris trials. SkyNRG is actively developing sustainable feedstock projects to create supply chains for the production of sustainable jet fuel. As such, SkyNRG has a specific interest in tobacco oil, as a feedstock for sustainable jet fuel production.

Tyton Biosciences

Research company operating in the green energy sector. Partner of tobacco energy project.

Roundtable on sustainable Biomaterials

The Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB) is a global, multi-stakeholder independent organisation that drives the development of a new world bioeconomy. RSB has the world’s most trusted, peer-reviewed, global certification standard for sustainable biomaterials, biofuels and biomass production. Sunchem received an RSB certification for the production of Solaris in South Africa. Samantha Hampton is part of the board of RSB South Africa.


Boeing, the world’s largest aerospace company, is committed to take action to protect the environment and support long-term sustainable growth for commercial aviation. As part of this commitment, Boeing leads global industry efforts to develop and commercialize sustainable aviation biofuel. One of the projects supported is the South African Project Solaris run by Sunchem and SkyNRG.

South African Airways

South African Airways is committed to becoming the most environmentally sustainable airline group in the world by implementing a long term environmental strategy and policy that includes a commitment to a reduction in CO₂ emissions through the effective and continued use of sustainable alternative fuels. SAA actively supported Project Solaris, leading to the first green biofuel flight in Africa.


Idroedil is an innovative Italian company, operating in the urban waste management and biogas production, recently also investing in used tire depolymerization technique. Idroedil is the main shareholder of Sunchem.

Italian Sustainable Aviation Fuel Forum

Sunchem took part in the Italian Sustainable Aviation Fuel Forum (ISAFF) annual workshop, first organized 4th of November 2014. ISAFF is promoted by ENAC (enac.gov.it) and WEC (wec-italia.org). More information about the Forum including the presentations can be found here.


The company offers a full package in the development of energy projects, covering everything from research to the design, construction and operation of plants for thermoelectric power generation from renewable sources.



Sunchem is a small dynamic company where expertise from various fields comes together to drive the development of Solaris. With operations in multiple countries spread over the world we have an international working environment. Backed by our partners and advisors we aim to create solutions to emerging world problems.

Currently we are looking for:

  • An HBO or WO intern focusing on developing and executing the communication strategy. See the internship description here.
  • Are you a racing sports fanatic? We are developing a sustainable motor racing fuel. See the internship description here. 
  • Do you want to be part of the perfect marketing example? We are looking for an intern to guide the market introduction of a new renewable speciality fuel in a fossil market. See the internship description here. 
  • We are looking for an all-round intern focussing on animal feed formulation from our side-products. See the internship description here.