Ceres seeks to broaden energy crop research scope

By Bryan Sims
Energy crop specialist Ceres Inc. has raised $75 million through a private equity offering of convertible preferred stock led by global private equity firm Warburg Pincus, an experienced private equity investor in alternative energy and renewables.

Ceres intends to use the funds for research and product development activities involving several dedicated energy crops-switchgrass, miscanthus and sweet sorghum-bred to maximize yields of plant biomass in order to be the energy-rich source of next-generation biofuels. The funds will also be used for capital expenditures and general corporate purposes.

In early October, Ceres and the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station (TAES), part of the Texas A&M University system, entered into an exclusive, multi-year joint research and commercialization agreement for high-biomass sorghum research. To accelerate product development, Ceres and the TAES will work together to expand their "marker-assisted" breeding efforts.

"This late-stage investment is a key validation of our growth plans," said Ceres President and CEO Richard Hamilton, noting that the funds will be a key driver in accelerating the biomass-to-fuel industry. "We now have the resources we need to expand the scale of our commercialization efforts and the independence to broadly collaborate with downstream players in the transportation fuel industry."