Altura, Minn. — The Kreidermacher family has a history of innovation — from producing and marketing their own flowers, vegetables and pork to making their own energy. Family members’ newest business, Alternative Energy Solutions, has been named AURI’s 2009 Ag Innovator of the Year.

In 1985, after years of growing vegetables and flowers for family and friends on their Winona County farm, Ed and Joyce Kreidermacher plunged into building a full-scale greenhouse and retail store. Today Pork and Plants has 65,000 square feet of covered greenhouses, producing thousands of perennial and annual plants and vegetables. Everything the business sells in its retail store, including pork, is grown on-site.

But with the high cost of heating greenhouses in the winter, brothers Eric and Paul Kreidermacher decided to make biomass pellets that could be burned in boilers to heat the greenhouses. Their successful experiments led to another business, Alternative Energy Solutions. “When people think of biofuels, most think of big operations like ethanol plants,” Eric Kreidermacher says. “But this is another example of what can be done.”

Made wtih corn stalks, oat screenings, soybean straw, prairie grasses, ag-processing leftovers and wood waste, the biomass-pellet fuel has helped Pork and Plants cut energy costs by about half.

“This is a great example of producer-owned energy because they are using a renewable biomass product, some that they produce themselves,” says Alan Doering, coproducts scientist in Waseca. “What they are doing is truly innovative.”

The Ag Innovator of the Year Award recognizes a Minnesota business that has shown innovation in developing an ag-based product that has positively impacted Minnesota producers. Alternative Energy Solutions is the eighth Minnesota business to receive the award