Growing crops that offset carbon emissions is all the rage these days and a US company says it is close to producing an oil seed rape that does exactly that.
Based in St Louis in Missouri, CoverCress Inc has announced it has raised another $8 million to fund its final stage of crop development and scale up for its first commercial planting for the fall of 2022.
That is good news for the midwestern farmers who are now one step closer to the prospect of growing a new cover crop that will generate a cash margin while supporting regenerative agriculture.
Bunge Ventures Ltd, the venture capital arm of the leading global agribusiness and food company Bunge, led the Series B-1 financing round. REG Ventures, LLC, a subsidiary of Renewable Energy Group, Inc, a leading US producer of biodiesel and renewable diesel, was another new strategic investor.
A new scalable source of material for producing fuels
This new winter oilseed crop is being developed under the CoverCress brand. The growing aim is to plant it near corn harvest, and harvest immediately before soybean planting, enabling three full season crops in two seasons. Derived from field pennycress, a native winter annual, the low carbon intensity oil from the plant represents a new scalable source of material for producing fuels like renewable diesel, biodiesel and sustainable aviation fuel.
CoverCress Chief Operating Officer Mike DeCamp said: “The game changer is that unlike other cover crops, the CoverCress seed has the potential to deliver a cash profit margin for the farmer. This new round of funding reflects the downstream demand we anticipate for CoverCress oil and meal.”
CoverCress crop also generates revenue as animal feed
Scientists used plant breeding to increase yield and accelerate maturity, as well as advanced gene editing tools to improve the oil and meal quality. Billed as the ‘cash cover crop,’ the CoverCress crop generates revenue as animal feed, either as a whole grain feed ingredient, or when processed, as a high-protein meal in addition to the low carbon intensity oil.
The plant offers the environmental benefits of other winter cover crops, grown during the offseason on existing corn and soybean farmland. Cover crops are known to sequester additional soil carbon, as well as reduce soil erosion and improve water quality.
Nanda Kumar Puthucode, Bunge Ventures Chief Investment Officer and managing director, said: “We are pleased to invest in this business that provides farmers with a tremendous opportunity to address global climate challenges by growing new crops that help lower carbon emissions.
“The CoverCress crop is an exciting new regenerative non-GMO cover crop that offers many potential applications as fuel, feed and food.”
Combined with an extended commitment of funding from other partners, including Leaps by Bayer, this new round of funding gives the company buy-in from the entire supply chain, DeCamp said. He added that it will give the company enough runway to deliver on its plan to begin commercial production by fall of 2022.
REG President and CEO Cynthia ‘CJ’ Warner said: “Bio-based diesel is making a real impact by reducing carbon emissions today. Developing additional sources of feedstock like CoverCress oil will enable us to grow our impact well into the future and double down on the positive impacts we can have on the environment, as the CoverCress crop also helps to prevent nutrient loss and increases soil carbon sequestration.”