Midwestern farmers are one step closer to the prospect of growing a new cover crop that will generate a cash margin while supporting regenerative agriculture. CoverCress Inc. 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.
Bunge Ventures Ltd., the venture capital arm of the leading global agribusiness and food company Bunge (NYSE: BG), led the Series B-1 financing round. REG Ventures, LLC, a subsidiary of Renewable Energy Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: REGI), a leading U.S. producer of biodiesel and renewable diesel, was another new strategic investor.
The innovative company is developing a new winter oilseed crop under the CoverCress brand. It’s planted near corn harvest, and harvested 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.
“The game changer is that unlike other cover crops, the CoverCress seed has the potential to deliver a cash profit margin for the farmer,” said CoverCress Chief Operating Officer Mike DeCamp. “This new round of funding reflects the downstream demand we anticipate for CoverCress oil and meal.”
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.
“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,” said Bunge Ventures Chief Investment Officer and Managing Director Nanda Kumar Puthucode. “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 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.
“Bio-based diesel is making a real impact by reducing carbon emissions today,” said REG President and CEO Cynthia ‘CJ’ Warner. “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.”