Bioenergy crop company Ceres appoints William Burnquist general manager of Brazil operations, says his experience will help introduction, scale-up of sweet sorghum energy crop for ethanol production

Rachel Carter

Rachel Carter

Dec 20, 2010 – Ceres

SAO PAULO , December 20, 2010 (press release) – Ceres, a leading developer of bioenergy crops, has appointed William Burnquist as the general manager of its operations in Brazil. An experienced leader in Brazil's sugarcane and ethanol sector, Burnquist will administer the day-to-day activities of the company's subsidiary, Ceres Sementes do Brasil Ltda., including local seed production and Ceres' network of sweet sorghum trials.

Richard Hamilton, Ceres President and CEO, says that Burnquist's experience in the sugarcane industry will facilitate the introduction and scale-up of the new energy crop, which experts describe as a "drop-in feedstock" since sweet sorghum fits existing infrastructure and can extend the ethanol production season by as many as two months or more.

"William's innovations helped shape the sugarcane-to-ethanol industry and we are confident he can do it again for sweet sorghum," said Hamilton, who noted that Ceres traits like drought and aluminum tolerance are being planned for sweet sorghum, among other energy crops. "He understands the importance of improved hybrids and traits to reach full-scale production and greater efficiency, as well as local market needs and requirements."

Burnquist joins the company at an eventful time, says Hamilton. "Our first large-scale trials are getting underway with ethanol mills, we are gearing up for commercial-scale activities, and we are putting our first Brazilian seed crops in the ground," he said.

Burnquist, who spent 33 years in the sugarcane industry, says this new chapter in his career also represents a new chapter for the ethanol industry. "I've committed my career to helping Brazil become energy independent, and bringing new opportunities to rural areas," he said. "I believe that sweet sorghum as a crop, and Ceres as a company, represent the next stage of growth for the industry and Brazil's growers."

He says that sweet sorghum will complement sugarcane production. The plants grow quickly, use less water and fertilizer than sugarcane, and achieve peak sugars at different times of the year, among other advantages. "I expect that new sweet sorghum hybrids will be the lowest-cost source of sugars in many places, and at times of the year when mills are idle," Burnquist said.

Prior to joining Ceres, Burnquist held various management positions at the Sugarcane Technology Center (Centro de Tecnologia Canavieira), including responsibilities for sugarcane breeding, biotechnology, strategic planning and technology alliances. He has served on numerous advisory groups, including, most recently, the EMBRAPA Cerrado Station External Review Board. Burnquist holds a PhD from Cornell University and an MBA from the Getulio Vargas Foundation, School of Business Administration of Sao Paulo.


Ceres, Inc. is a leading developer of high-yielding energy crops that can be planted as raw materials for advanced biofuels and biopower. Its development efforts include sweet sorghum, high-biomass sorghum, switchgrass and miscanthus. The company markets its seed under its Blade brand. Ceres holds one of the world's largest collections of fully sequenced plant genes.

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