Bayer expands investment in CoverCress, acquires majority share
Bayer, Bunge and Chevron U.S.A. Inc., a subsidiary of Chevron Corp., have signed a shareholders’ agreement in connection with Bayer’s acquisition of a 65 percent majority ownership of the winter oilseed producer CoverCress Inc. (CCI). The remaining 35 percent of CCI will continue ownership under Bunge and Chevron. CoverCress™ is a rotational cash crop that combines grain production with the environmental benefits of a cover crop without displacing other harvests. Oil extracted from CoverCress™ grain is designed to achieve a lower carbon-intensity score and can be made into renewable diesel with Bunge’s expertise in oilseed processing and Chevron’s proficiency in fuels manufacturing. This farm-to-fuel supply chain represented by CCI, Bayer, Bunge and Chevron aims to give corn and soybean growers another revenue outlet by providing the world with a desirable fuel product and high-protein meal for animal feed. “CoverCress is exciting because it has the potential to become an important source for biofuel production as a new harvested rotational crop, while giving growers an innovative option to continue effective stewardship of their land and improve soil quality by acting as a cover crop,” said Rodrigo Santos, a member of the board of management of Bayer AG and president of its crop-science division. “As a global leader in crop science, we are committed to decarbonizing agriculture and helping farmers around the world become more sustainable through game-changing products and solutions that can impact climate change. This investment and collaboration between industry leaders is another proof point for our efforts.” Aligning the combined expertise of Bayer, Bunge and Chevron with the potential held by CoverCress™ will position CCI to further develop and commercialize its namesake winter oilseed into a rotational cash cover crop with potential sustainability and carbon-sequestration benefits and bring a new lower-carbon fuel feedstock to the renewable diesel industry. CCI, which will continue to operate as an independent entity, has developed CoverCress™ as a unique crop whose grain is a lower-carbon, low-input source for fuel and feed. “Since our founding in 2013 we have actively sought—and benefited from—scientific, operational and financial support from our academic and strategic partners,” said Mike DeCamp, CEO and president of CCI. “The progress we have made in converting pennycress into our novel, lower carbon intensity oilseed technology, CoverCress™, would have been much slower without this critical support. Our longstanding strategic partnership with Bayer and our more recent strategic partnerships with Bunge and Chevron have provided us with access to expertise and capital that positions CCI very well for future success.” By leveraging expertise and backing from leaders in fuels, soybean crushing, logistics, and crop sciences, CCI will be positioned to deliver on its full potential via a supply chain that understands its crop’s production, growth, processing and delivery needs from the ground up. “Connecting the full value chain—from seed development to end consumer—is an important step to bringing this crop to market at scale,” said Greg Heckman, Bunge’s CEO. “We look forward to helping meet the growing demand for renewable fuels with this next-generation lower-carbon feedstock.” Growers in North America will soon gain access to this cash crop that provides the benefits of a cover crop as well as being harvestable for use as a renewable fuel feedstock. “Chevron is seeking to create innovative renewable fuel feedstocks by collaborating with America’s farmers,” said Mark Nelson, Chevron’s executive vice president for downstream and chemicals. “We are excited to work with Bayer and Bunge to accelerate the adoption of CoverCress™, which we believe can ultimately be used to help supply the U.S. transportation system with lower lifecycle carbon intensity fuels.” Farmers plant traditional cover crops to protect and improve their soil, not to harvest. Developed by converting field pennycress through breeding and gene-editing tools, CoverCress™ is a new low-input rotational cash crop that has the ecosystem benefits of a cover crop. When added into corn and soybean rotations on land during the winter, CoverCress™ has the potential to decrease nitrogen loss, help store carbon in the soil and improve soil health. CCI has been a portfolio company of Leaps by Bayer, the impact investment arm of Bayer, for the past seven years. The success that CCI has achieved in the face of high risk and uncertainty shows the value of supporting breakthrough innovation that can solve major problems for humanity.