Media Kit

What is IPREFER?

Led by Western Illinois University and funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA), the Integrated Pennycress Research Enabling Farm and Energy Resilience (IPREFER) project is a team of academic researchers, agricultural producers and the commercial interests working to optimize off-season pennycress oilseed production.

The project goal is to move pennycress towards a launch as a cash cover crop by 2021, with a goal of yielding up to an additional 2 billion gallons of oil annually towards the 25 year goal of 50 billion gallons set by USDA-NIFA in 2018.

IPREFER focuses on optimizing agronomic protocols, breeding line development, assessment of environmental impacts, supply chain requirements, and community outreach.

IPREFER is led by Project Director Win Phippen of Western Illinois University. Project partners include: public universities: Western Illinois University, Illinois State University, University of Minnesota, Ohio State University, and University of Wisconsin-Platteville; government agencies: USDA-ARS-NCSCRL, private industry (CoverCress, Inc.) and interested stakeholders who are poised to deliver the following and more:

  • Improved pennycress breeding and genetics
  • Improved pennycress agronomic management
  • Supply chain establishment and reduction of supply chain bottlenecks
  • Education and extension networks that will enhance pennycress adoption as a cash cover crop.

As a winter cover crop, pennycress will impact many of the top news stories covering rural economics, natural resource management, biofuel technology, energy security and the development of a more resilient and more Midwestern farm economy. Pennycress can:

  • Positively impact the profitability of production agriculture,
  • Decrease soil erosion and nutrient runoff thereby protecting water systems,
  • Support pollinator health and biodiversity,
  • Suppress spring weeds,
  • Increase energy security by diversifying the nation’s energy portfolio
  • Contribute to the economic health of rural communities.


IPREFER Contact Information

For additional information or to learn more about IPREFER contact:

Anne Kinzel, IPREFER Project Manager –



IPREFER is primarily supported by an Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant no. ­­­2019-69012-29851 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. IPREFER is part of NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative’s (AFRI) Sustainable Agricultural Systems program.

  • Duration: 5-year grant
  • 5-year funding amount: $10 million
  • Start date: August 2019


IPREFER Executive Leadership Team Biographies

Win Phippen, Ph.D. is the IPREFER Project Director. Dr. Phippen is a Plant Breeding and Genetics professor at the School of Agriculture at Western Illinois University in Macomb, IL. He received his master’s degree from Cornell University in plant breeding and his doctorate from Purdue University. His research for the last 20 years has focused on agronomic and breeding improvement of alternative and new crops such as milkweed, cuphea, hemp, and most recently pennycress. Dr. Phippen’s IPREFER research activities focus on pennycress breeding and variety development. / (309) 298-125

Ratan Chopra, Ph.D. is the Director of Genetics at IPREFER’s commercial partner, CoverCress, Inc. Dr. Chopra’s work focuses on pennycress genetics and breeding.

Rebekka Darner, Ph.D. is a professor at Illinois State University and the Director of Illinois State University’s Center for Mathematics, Science, & Technology. Dr.Darner’s focus is as a science education researcher whose research focuses on improving the scientific literacy of nonscientist members of the public, particularly pre-service teachers. Dr. Darner is a leader in IPREFER’s Outreach and Extension Objective.

David Marks is a professor (ret/active)in Plant and Microbial Biology in the College Biological Sciences at the University in Minnesota, St. Paul, MN. Dr. Marks’ research for the last six years has focused on the domestication of pennycress as a new cash cover crop suitable for growing between the harvest of maize and the establishment of soybean in the Midwest.

William (Bill) Perry, Ph.D. is a Professor of Aquatic Ecology at Illinois State University. Dr. Perry’s research interests focus on the chemistry and biology of freshwaters. Dr. Perry leads IPREFER’s work in the area of pennycress ecosystem services.

John Sedbrook, Ph.D. is a professor of Genetics at Illinois State University (Normal, IL). Dr. Sedbrook leads IPREFER’s southern region breeding and genetics research program and provides genetics and molecular biology expertise to genetically improve pennycress germplasm through CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing and marker-assisted breeding. He also contributes to 4-H and farmer outreach and education efforts.

Samantha S. Wells, Ph.D. is a member of the IPREFER Executive Leadership team. Dr. Wells leads IPREFER’s work in the agronomic development of pennycress and also supports extension education efforts. Additionally, Dr. Wells is IPREFER Data Management Coordinator, responsible for overall project data management. Dr. Wells is an Assistant Professor of Agronomy and Plant Genetics in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences at the University in Minnesota in St. Paul, MN. He received his master’s and doctorate degrees from North Carolina State University. Her research for the last six years has focused on agronomic improvement of winter annual cover crops and oilseeds for annual row crop production systems.


IPREFER Advisory Board

The Advisory Board provides guidance and suggestions to the PI’s for improving program effectiveness and impact with producers and end users. Board members are strong advocates for the project and provide critical and astute observations.

Steve Csonka is the Executive Director of the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI) where he leads this public/private consortium working toward the development, introduction and wide-spread commercialization of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) for the entire aviation enterprise. With over 27 years of broad airline and aviation OEM experience prior to taking the helm of CAAFI in 2012, Csonka is a strong industry advocate who seeks pragmatic solutions to the challenges of aviation growth – resulting in his current focus on SAF as the leading technology to allow for the near-term decoupling of carbon growth from operational growth.

Mike DeCamp Mike DeCamp serves as Chief Executive Officer of CoverCress Inc. He joined the company as Chief Operating Officer in 2020. Mike has over 30 years of diversified experience in agribusiness, corporate finance, law, corporate strategy, and M&A. Mike began his career as a CPA with Ernst & Young; practiced corporate and securities law with Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale in St. Louis; worked for Monsanto Company in legal, strategy and operational executive roles; founded an agricultural focused strategic advisory and transaction services firm; and lead the corporate finance, capital management, M&A and strategy functions as CFO and CIO for a production agriculture focused private equity firm in Indianapolis. Mike earned his law degree from the University of Missouri – Columbia, and a BA in business administration from the University of Missouri – St. Louis.

Neville Fernandes Vice President, Corporate Affairs and Development at Renewable Energy Group, Inc.

Lauren Lurkins serves as the Illinois Farm Bureau’s Director of Environmental Policy in the Governmental Affairs and Commodities Division a position she has since May 2013. Lurkins is responsible for advocating on behalf of the IFB in the promulgation, implementation and enforcement of environmental regulation impacting Illinois agriculture. Lurkins has experience in in all areas of environmental law, including both enforcement defense and legislative/regulatory activity. Lurkins holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental science from Saint Louis University and a law degree from Southern Illinois University School of Law, with a focus on environmental law.

Alan Weber is a founding partner of MARC-IV, a consulting company that fosters the development of biobased innovations that benefit agricultural and enhance our environment. Active with biodiesel commercialization since 1991, Weber assisted with the establishment of the National Biodiesel Board’s (NBB) Washington, DC office (2006-07) and continues to provide economic and technical support to their efforts. He was appointed by the U.S. Secretaries of Agriculture and Energy to serve on the Biomass Research & Development Initiative Technical Advisory Committee in 2012. Weber also operates and manages his family’s farm in central Missouri.


Social Media

The IPREFER website is IPREFER has a Twitter account – @IPREFER_CAP


Image Gallery

Please attribute credit to IPREFER when using any of these images.

These images are available under Creative Commons license BY-NC-ND. This license allows others to download our work and share them with others as long as the work acknowledges IPREFER, and the appropriate project member where applicable. The work cannot be changed or used commercially.



IPREFER In the News – 2021

You can also access IPREFER  academic publications, presentations, videos or older news articles.



IPREFER Project Reports

These reports provide updates of IPREFER’s work and contain information from all the project’s objectives (Breeding and Genetics, Agronomy/ Crop Management, Ecosystems Services, Supply Chain, Outreach and Extension, Education). Our reports are available here.