Mike DeCamp

St. Louis, MO (October 26, 2022) - Partnerships among companies in the St. Louis area were spotlighted during the AgTech NEXT 2022, Reinventing a Food System in Crisis, conference Oct. 11-13 at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, MO.

One such partnership has occurred through the development of CoverCress, which was founded in 2013 to advance pennycress, a winter weed as non-food, non-feed agricultural feedstock for the production of renewable fuels, President and CEO Mike DeCamp says.

Through techniques such as traditional breeding and advanced gene editing, DeCamp explains work has been done in the past 10 years to convert pennycress into a new crop now known as CoverCress.

Bayer, which was one of the first investors in the company, acquired a controlling interest in CoverCress this summer. Other owners in the company are among the largest players in their respective sectors, putting CoverCress in a unique position, DeCamp says.

He notes Bayer involves farmers and seed, Bunge crushes oilseed, and Chevron is a downstream renewable diesel producer.

Fernando Candia

Renewable fuels are currently one of the biggest drivers as the need for more products increases, says Fernando Candia, Bunge vice president of carbon solutions. The company wants to connect its grower customers with its feed, food, and fuel customers, Candia says.

“We want to do so as efficiently as possible to bring good value propositions for both sets of customers and do it sustainably,” Candia says. “It’s not just about procuring more. It’s about decarbonizing and doing it in a sustainable way.”

Winnie Lieu

Chevron is working across the value chain, says Winnie Lieu, Chevron general manager of downstream strategy.

“We believe the future is lower carbon,” Lieu says. “We are committed to finding lower carbon solutions and delivering those solutions. We need access to renewable feed stocks to deliver on those goals as we scale up and bring to market products with increasing demand for renewable fuel.”

Jennifer Ozimkiewicz

Jennifer Ozimkiewicz says Bayer has continued its investment in CoverCress as they have seen the technical progress being made to develop the crop.

“Bayer’s mission is supporting innovation to shape agriculture for the future of farmers, consumers, and society,” says Ozimkiewicz, Bayer CropScience senior vice president. “CoverCress fits very well with that mission. We want to provide value to farmers to improve soil ecosystems. CoverCress can make a significant contribution to the renewable energy space as a non-food crop. It can fit in between corn and soybeans in the rotation.”

The partnership is an example of companies looking for opportunities across the value chain, Lieu says.

“We need to break outside the silo,” Lieu says. “That’s where the opportunities are. We’re in a period of great disruption. With that disruption, comes a period of great opportunity. We are working together with shared ambition. Let’s look at that with a common goal in mind.”

The keynote presentation during the investment portion of the conference was from Nancy Pfund, founder and managing partner, DBL Partners. A panel discussion included Adam Bergman, managing director, Clean Energy Transition Group and global head of AgTech investment, Citi, moderator; Martha Schlicher, PhD, entrepreneur in residence, BiGenerator; Sanjay Wagle, co-founder and managing director, The Lightsmith Group; and Jason Wrone, partner, Open Prairie.

For more on this story, see the Fourth Quarter issue of Seed Today.

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Written by Chris Lusvardi, Seed Today editor