"Creating a Pennycress Bioenergy Business"

Period of Performance: 01/01/2011 - 12/31/2011


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Peoria, IL 61606
Principal Investigator
Firm POC


The national demand for energy and need for economic development has been driving efforts to create a domestic biofuels industry. Significant investment by both the public and private sectors have resulted in progress but recent government rule making has set ambitious requirements for renewable fuel supplies that can not be met with existing technologies or feedstocks. This significant unmet market for biofuels created by Federal regulation is the business opportunity identified by ATI to be met by producing Field Pennycress as a non-food energy crop. Pennycress has seeds with 36% oil and is grown as a winter annual on unused land following the corn harvest and prior to the spring planting of soybeans. This means that farmers can continue to grow corn and soybeans in the traditional way but add our new crop in the winter allowing them to earn additional income. Approximately 40 million acres of land are available each year for Pennycress under this strategy with no impact to the food supply or critical wildlife habitats. When fully deployed, Pennycress could supply eight billion gallons of biofuels and generate $4 billion in new farm income. In addition, approximately 23,000 new non-farm jobs could be created in rural communities enhancing local economic development. Our Phase I research has confirmed that Pennycress can be grown commercially as an energy crop and the logistics of harvest, transportation and storage were proven. Our SBIR Phase II project is designed to enhance Pennycress profitability through higher yields, gain acceptance from the farmers while reducing risk and uncertainty so that the crop is adopted and production acres can grow. In addition, a complete Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) for Pennycress biofuel production will be undertaken. ATI and its research partners will conduct agronomic research to address planting strategies, fertilizer regimes to enhance yields and evaluate new genetic lines of Pennycress. We will assess the impact of growing Pennycress on soil nutrition as well as its impact on the following soybean crop. ATI will gather data necessary to support the LCA of Pennycress required for EPA and USDA rule making on advanced biofuels and conclusion of this project will allow ATI to deploy a Pennycress supply chain from the farm to the pump as an innovative bioenergy business. The ATI commercialization plan is to contract with farmers to produce Pennycress from seed provided by us, take delivery of the crop and then process the seed by crushing and sell the resulting oil and remaining high-energy presscake. Our five-year goal is to have 100,000 acres under cultivation. ATI expects to grow geographically to more than one million acres as the crop proves itself to farmers. With substantial revenues from our production business, we will ultimately build our own biofuel manufacturing facilities and function as an integrated bioenergy company.