DuPont invests in NexSteppe; collaboration on new sweet sorghum and high biomass sorghum hybrids for feedstocks for renewable fuels and chemicals
DuPont and NexSteppe have entered into a collaboration to develop advanced feedstocks for biofuels, biopower and biobased products. The collaboration will focus on the development of new sweet sorghum and high biomass sorghum hybrids which will create additional feedstock options for these industries.
In December 2011, NexSteppe announced it had raised $14 million in its second round of funding. The company said then that it will use the proceeds from the round to scale up its sweet sorghum, high biomass sorghum and switchgrass breeding programs, and to advance its first products toward commercialization.
Sorghum is naturally drought- and heat-tolerant and has the ability to grow in marginal rainfall areas with high temperatures where it is difficult to grow other crops. It has a relatively short growing season and is suitable for crop rotation systems. Sorghum is increasingly grown as a source of feedstock for industrial value chains.
Sweet sorghum can be used as a complement to sugarcane in existing Brazilian sugar to ethanol mills, and as a feedstock for advanced biofuels and other biobased products produced from sugars. High Biomass Sorghum is a high-yielding crop that can be used as a feedstock for biopower and cellulosic biofuels. DuPont, through its Industrial Biosciences business, operates and develops industrial processes that use sugar as a feedstock.
DuPont has made an equity investment in NexSteppe, and through its Pioneer Hi-Bred business, will provide knowledge, resources and advanced technologies to help the company accelerate the breeding and commercialization of new hybrids of these crops in the United States and Brazil.
We’re using science-based innovation and collaboration to develop scalable, sustainable feedstock options for the biobased industries. Collaborations like this one with NexSteppe will provide new opportunities for growers to address the rising demand for secure, environmentally sustainable and affordable alternatives to fossil fuels.—John Bedbrook, vice president for DuPont Agricultural Biotechnology
Sorghum is a crop with significant genetic diversity and great potential that has received relatively little research attention and funding. Combining DuPont’s world-class research and development capabilities with our industry knowledge, experienced team and singular focus, we will be able to rapidly improve the crop to produce feedstocks tailored to the needs of the biofuels, biopower and biobased products industries.—Anna Rath, NexSteppe founder and CEO
The second round of funding for NexSteppe was led by Braemar Energy Ventures. In connection with Braemar’s investment in NexSteppe, Dennis Costello, Partner at Braemar Energy Ventures, has joined the company’s Board of Directors.
Braemar was joined by returning investors CYM Ventures and Zygote Ventures among others. CYM Ventures is the investment company of a third-generation, family-owned and operated agricultural business in Asia. Zygote Ventures is a privately held seed/angel venture capital fund that invests very early in innovative technology enterprises. Zygote is run by principal Jerry Fiddler, Chairman of Solazyme and founder of Wind River.