Pennycress Energy Co., with assistance from the Entrepreneur, Business and Industry Network (the EBI Network) will be hosting a number of informational meetings over the next few weeks in the Galesburg/West Central Illinois Region. The first meeting is scheduled for July 18th, 6:00 – 7:30 P.M. at the Sustainable Business Center in Galesburg, and will introduce local farmers to pennycress.
Pennycress can be grown as a non-food annual cover and energy crop on dormant land during the winter. Its seeds, when crushed, produce an oil that can be used as a feedstock for bio-diesel. Additional meetings are to follow throughout the region shortly thereafter.
According to Sudhir Seth, Pennycress CEO, “Pennycress is a unique ‘farm to fuel pump’ enterprise, allowing farmers to add a ‘second shift’ to their farm by growing a crop in the dormant winter months that can be harvested and sold for additional cash.” Seth explained that the pennycress seed produces 36% oil when crushed compared to the 18% oil from soy beans, and is thought to be of higher quality then soy oil. The company will be offering farmers free seed, free planting, fees to harvest the crop and the opportunity to earn additional revenue (up to $100/acre depending on yields).
Gary Camarano, the EBI Network’s Global Strategies Director added, “We have an opportunity to help a young company establish itself in the biofuels industry and create additional income for our farming community. We are happy to help introduce pennycress to the region and to see if we can make something happen here. We want to get the information out, answer questions and make sure this is right for our farmers.”
Pennycress Energy, which is in the final stages of leasing space at the Sustainable Business Center in Galesburg, is looking to enlist 250,000 acres of farm land within a 60 miles radius of Galesburg to grow pennycress as a cover crop, and feedstock for pennycress bio-diesel. “The 250,000 acres would be the right amount to support a crushing plant that would employ roughly 30 full time employees,” added Seth.
State Representative Don Moffitt, who has been following the Pennycress project said, “It is especially important to point out that pennycress would be produced as a ‘double crop’ or ‘second crop’ system. As such, it not only provides additional income for farmers, but it also allows the land to be used to produce traditional feed crops for livestock, thus removing the concern that bio-fuels compete for livestock feed sources. Pennycress production will allow farmers to produce a crop for livestock feed from the same land in the same year.”
Galesburg Mayor Sal Garza expressed satisfaction that the project is gaining some traction, adding, “We have a number of economic development initiatives that we are pursuing. Obviously helping our existing employers is one of them. But we also owe it to ourselves to explore new technologies and innovations that can diversify our economic base as we move into the 21st Century and Pennycress Energy is one of them. We’re building a portfolio of companies and projects – like Lamboo, Intellihot, Pennycress Energy and aquaponics – that will help move us in that direction.”
The July 18th meeting will be held at the Sustainable Business Center, 2900 West Main St., Galesburg at 6:00 PM and run to approximately 7:30 PM. Seating is limited, and growers interested in finding out more about pennycress should contact Gary Camarano at 309/371-0474 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a seat.
A video of pennycress being harvested last year outside of Peoria, Illinois: