The pitch sounded audacious: Turn a plant that most farmers considered a weed into a cash crop.

Creating a new cash crop is a tall order, but the startup would improve pennycress’ yield enough to make it commercially viable. It also found partners willing to process the seed into biofuel. Last Monday, their efforts paid off when agribusiness giant Bayer bought majority ownership of CoverCress Inc., now a 25-employee company based in Creve Coeur.

It was 2012, and some visiting scientists made a presentation about field pennycress at the Danforth Plant Science Center’s innovation showcase. The seeds’ oil content showed promise for renewable fuel production, and the federal government had funded research.

Former Monsanto executives Vijay Chauhan, Dennis Plummer and Mike Roth were intrigued enough to form a company around the idea. They got early backing from BioGenerator, a seed fund and business incubator, and would eventually raise money from other local investors including Cultivation Capital, Yield Lab, the St. Louis Arch Angels, St. Louis County’s Helix Fund and the state-backed Missouri Technology Corp.  READ MORE