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Bayer purchases majority share in local ag startup CoverCress

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Pennycress 'weed' crop with high potential

Kristine Menn, greenhouse co-ordinator for Arvegenix, separates the male and female parts of a field pennycress flower crown on Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015, at the company's laboratory in the Danforth Plant Science Center. Pennycress is a winter-growing weed with seeds that produce a high-quality oil for potential use in industrial and renewable fuels. Photo by Christian Gooden, cgooden@post-dispatch.com

ST. LOUIS — Pharmaceutical and biotechnology company Bayer has purchased a majority share in CoverCress, a Creve Coeur-based agriculture startup.

CoverCress is developing a cash cover crop that can be planted in the winter between harvests of corn and soybeans. The crop, a strain of pennycress, produces oilseed that can be crushed for use in animal feed and renewable fuel.

The purchase expands Bayer’s ownership of CoverCress to 65% after it had previously invested in the company in 2015. It arrives just as the startup is preparing to launch its crop commercially, aiming to plant 10,000 acres this fall.

Rodrigo Santos, president of Bayer’s crop sciences division, said in a statement CoverCress is an exciting company because of its potential to be an important source of biofuel production.

Ownership of the remaining 35% of the company will be shared by Chevron and Bunge, which are partnering with CoverCress to provide a supply chain for the pennycress strain.

The companies said Bayer’s investment will help accelerate the commercial adoption of CoverCress.

Nicklaus: Ag firm’s billion-dollar success validates St. Louis’ two-decade-old biotech vision
Bunge venture unit leads $8 million investment in CoverCress
CoverCress raises $5 million to continue developing new crop
Federal grant boosts effort to turn a weed into an oilseed crop
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