Galesburg’s Entrepreneur, Business and Industry Network and Pennycress Energy Company, LLC will be moving ahead on a collaboration which could bring millions of dollars and jobs to the Galesburg/West Central Illinois Region.
At a recent meeting between the EBI Network, city officials and Pennycress Energy, options and tactics were discussed, and preliminary plans outlined on how to attract potential partners and investors to what could be an exciting and workable renewable energy project in the region. Over the course of the next few months, the EBI Network will host several informational meetings for area farmers looking to learn more about pennycress and the opportunity to earn additional income. Call Gary Camarano at (309) 371-0474 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Pennycress Energy has been promoting the farming of pennycress, a seed producing plant that grows during the winter, as a feedstock for biodiesel. The crop will not compete with food crops, provides a cover crop during the winter, and could bring area growers an additional $25 million in revenues.
Pennycress, a member of the mustard family, produces a seed that contains approximately 36 percent oil, double the oil produced from soy beans. The oil is of a high quality and there is a growing market for it among biodiesel manufacturers, in fact being the preferred oil for use in aviation biofuels for the defense industry. The oil also has wide ranging applications in the industrial bio-chemical sector.
The seed used by Pennycress Energy is being developed in conjunction with the USDA-ARS and Western Illinois University at Macomb and has shown to be a heartier and higher yielding variety.
“This opportunity represents the region’s ability to move into the growing of sustainable industries that are part of the new economy of the 21st century,” said Galesburg Mayor Sal Garza. “In addition to our traditional manufacturing base, this helps us diversify our local economy, creating jobs and adding revenues to our important agricultural economy.”
Sudhir Seth, Pennycress Energy CEO added, “Pennycress is a unique farm to fuel pump enterprise giving our farmers the ability to double crop and earn more — it’s like adding ‘a second shift to the factory of agriculture.’ The addition of this winter crop has the potential of giving the farmer additional $100 or even more per acre in income in due course of time.
“We will give the farmer the seed, pay for planting, make payment to harvest the crop, and buy the seed. The crop adds to the farmer’s income, creates jobs in the crushing operations, and the oil derived from the seed will help decrease foreign oil dependency. It’s a very attractive proposition for all involved.”
Serin Rao, Pennycress’ chief operating officer, noted, “We’ve seen the pro-growth atmosphere the city has created here, and feel this would be a great location to move into our commercialization phase. This type of atmosphere is very important to any company looking to start and grow.”
Camarano explained, “We want to get local growers involved in the planting. If we can get enough acreage planted in a 50-mile radius, we can justify a seed storage and crushing facility that will employ 30 people. In the near future we will be hosting a number of meetings with local farmers to explain the project and enlist acres. I am excited about this opportunity.”
U.S. Congressman Bobby Schilling, R-Colona, has voiced support of the project by noting, “This is a project with potential for the region — jobs, revenue and helping the country decrease its foreign oil dependency.”
Rep. Don Moffitt, R-Gilson, also added his support stating, “As a farmer and legislator I see the benefits of a project like this. Jobs, a new source of farm income, a sustainable energy source — it makes sense for the region.”
Galesburg’s economic development efforts are on target and I commend the mayor and his team for their actions.”