September Entrepreneurial Spotlight: Sudhir Seth

Sudhir Seth, CEO of ATI, Inc.

Galesburg and the West Central Illinois Region has its share of entrepreneurs, and recently one of them has been attracting a lot of attention with his efforts to commercialize what has for the last 200 years been considered a ‘nuisance.’ Sudhir Seth, CEO of Pennycress Energy, has taken an invention developed by the USDA Research Lab in Peoria, the commercial version of pennycress, and is bringing it to growers in the region.

Pennycress, a member of the mustard family, is a winter cover crop with potential to be a renewable energy resource. Its seed produces an oil which is deemed to be a high quality biodiesel feedstock. Considered a weed until recently, pennycress produces seeds that yield up to 36% oil. This is substantial when compared to another biodiesel feedstock, soybeans, that yield only 18% oil. Sudhir Seth said, “This is an opportunity for us to put a ‘second shift into the farm factory’. Pennycress is a winter crop, and grows between the traditional corn over soybean rotation. So growers get an extra crop that can produce additional income without competing with their commodity crops.”

Bags of Pennycress seed being delivered to the Sustainable Business Center in Galesburg, Illinois.

Seth continued, “Pennycress Energy will provide farmers with a free winter cover crop – we provide the seed and the planting – and we will pay for the harvesting of the seed and purchase the seed from the farmer, providing them with a second income. Additionally, as a cover crop pennycress prevents soil and nutrient runoff and has shown to boost soybeans yields following a pennycress crop. Our job is to commercialize this wonderful opportunity and get growers involved.”

During a recent presentation at the Ag Innovation Showcase in St. Louis, Seth told the audience, “I live and breathe pennycress, think about it, talk about it, dream about it. The only thing I don’t do is eat or drink it – it’s an inedible crop. Other than that pennycress is now my life and mission.” Attitudes like that expressed by Seth are often what separate entrepreneurs from the rest of us – a total commitment to an idea and an unwavering confidence in it.

Pennycress seed.

Currently Pennycress Energy is in the process of enlisting 250,000 acres to grow Pennycress in the West Central Illinois Region by 2017. That is a crucial number to reach if the crop is to make an impact there. The goal, if reached, would add approximately $25 million to the local farm community, create jobs at a crushing plant, and contribute to independence from foreign oil sources. The company has been hosting information meetings for farmers and is aggressively seeking partners. It’s a good idea, and what’s needed is an entrepreneur to do it. Sudhir Seth fits the bill.

For further information about Pennycress Energy contact Sudhir Seth, CEO, by email at or call 650/ 776-5433.

Article written by Gary Camarano, Global Strategies Director for the EBI Network.

This entry was posted in Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Sustainability. Bookmark the permalink.

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