Benson, Minn. — North American Fertilizer is AURI’s 2011 Ag Innovator of the Year. The award was presented at a June 16 AURI board of directors luncheon in Benson.

AURI annually honors a Minnesota company that has used AURI services for an innovative product or process, uses significant amounts of agricultural commodities or coproducts and has achieved marketplace success.

North American Fertilizer annually sells more than100,000 tons of NAFMicro, an ash fertilizer. NAFMicro is derived from poultry manure incinerated at nearby Fibrominn, a 55-megawatt electricity plant powered by a half-million tons of turkey and chicken litter.

While nitrogen in the litter is consumed by combustion, other nutrients and minerals remain in the ash, including sulfur, zinc, copper, magnesium and boron. These micronutrients provide a local fertilizer source.

“NAFMicro is the only product of its kind in the U.S.,” says Steve Miller, North American Fertilizer general manager. Because it is a unique product, “one of the initial challenges was to instill confidence in the dealer and end user that the product was everything it claimed to be.”

AURI assisted with testing the fertilizer that now generates more than $10 million in annual retail sales, and is applied to roughly 150,000 acres of Minnesota farmland. Because of repeat customers and limited quantities, demand for NAFMicro has outpaced supply.

Photo by Rolf Hagberg

Miller attributes the company’s success to investing in nutrient analysis and daily quality control tests and working with respected, knowledgeable companies. NAF had to develop the handling, distribution and application process from scratch because there was no model to follow.

NAF’s “innovative spirit” and paying attention to detail earned it the Ag Innovator of the Year award, says Teresa Spaeth, AURI executive director. “North American Fertilizer is a great example of a company taking an ag-processing coproduct and turning it into a business that is creating jobs and economic activity in rural Minnesota.”

“We present this award to draw attention to the contribution innovative ag-based companies are making,” Spaeth says, “not only to agriculture, but to the economy of the whole state.”

“With so many great companies working tirelessly to create whatever edge they can,” Miller says, “to be considered as Ag Innovator of the Year is indeed an honor.”