—  by Amanda Wanke
photos by Rolf Hagberg

AURI recently announced 16 research initiatives for 2013. The projects in the organization’s core four focus areas—renewable energy, biobased products, coproducts and food—all aim to create new and improved products and processes in Minnesota’s agriculture industry in order to grow the economy and create new jobs.

“Agriculture is critical to the strength of Minnesota’s economy. It is the second largest employer in the state. Ensuring a stable, growing agriculture industry means a stronger economic future for Minnesota,” says AURI Executive Director Teresa Spaeth. “All of these research projects aim to create economic growth and jobs for the state by bringing to market new products and improved processes.”

AURI will partner with commodity groups, economic development organizations, foundations and others across the state to ensure that the information available through these research initiatives is put in the hands of the businesses, entrepreneurs and producers who will bring these ideas
to commercialization.

“As we evaluate our potential initiatives, we know that they fit a number of criteria including that the information is important to the industry, that the projects are technically and commercially near term, and that there is a promising partnership or team to do the work,” explains Jen Wagner-Lahr, AURI senior director of innovation and commercialization. “Most importantly we evaluate whether businesses and entrepreneurs will be interested in the information. If they are, then there is reason to move forward based on that interest in moving it into the market, translating to jobs and wealth creation.”

The following is a brief summary of the projects, with more information available at auri.org

 

Biobased Products

Biobased Industry Needs Assessment
AURI will identify and create a contact database of key biobased products, service providers and companies to assist with the development of this industry.Opportunities for Biobased Coatings
AURI will compile and distribute an assessment of the opportunities available in the area of biobased coatings.Higher Value Uses for Ag Fibers
Ag fibers, such as corn stover, wheat straw, and native prairie grass, are currently put back into the soil as nutrients, used in biomass, or in other low-value ways. This project will look at possible ways to create higher value uses.Soy-Based Polyol Research
This initiative will examine the feasibility of producing soy-based polyols, which are similar to fatty acids but more flexible, from soybean oil. This initiative will identify the products and economic challenges and opportunities of converting soybean oil to polyols in biodiesel plants when biodiesel production is not profitable.

Food


Clean Label Alternatives Report

AURI will identify alternative ingredients to current additives, chemicals and processing agents in order to address consumers desire for all-natural ingredients but still provide the food safety and performance functions as previous ingredients.

Food Safety Interventions
AURI will provide a series of food safety workshops and conduct panel discussions with industry experts to demonstrate interventions processors can make to ensure their products meet industry standards.

Sensory Evaluation Laboratory
A new sensory lab will support AURI’s mission of researching, developing and implementing new uses or value improvements for Minnesota agricultural commodities and food products. This lab will be a collaboration with Southwest Minnesota State University.

Food Coop Peer-to-Peer Forums
This forum will bring together food co-ops to share information and resources to increase their likelihood of success.

Food Hub Resource Assessment
This project will identify the existing capacity of a regional, grassroots-based food distribution system in Minnesota through a self-assessment to identify regional resources and assist linking producers and consumers.

Coproducts

Health Benefits of Biomass Heat in Turkey Barns
This research will determine the air quality, bird health, litter quality and overall environmental conditions of turkey barns that use a biomass heating system in comparison to barns that use conventional propane-fired systems that are not vented.

Coproducts Assessment
This project will determine potential value-added opportunities for coproducts (secondary products developed from a core product or process) that are undervalued
or underutilized.

Identifying Lower Cost Grain Processing Coproducts for Swine Diets
The objective of this study is to determine the ideal ratio of condensed distiller’s solubles (CDS) to wet distillers’ grains (WDG) when feeding pigs via a liquid feeding system from wean to finish with a focus on lowering costs for swine producers.

Renewable Energy

Biomethane from Producer Gas Assessment
Producer gas from anaerobic digesters and other renewable sources is often insufficiently pure to be used as a renewable fuel; AURI will review the available clean-up technology and identify resources that could address these limitations.

Ethanol Plant Zero Liquid Discharge
This project would compile a list of technologies and retrofitting costs to help ethanol plants have zero liquid discharge from their processes.

Biofuels in Minnesota
AURI will continue to support Minnesota’s biofuels industries by participating on various taskforces, councils, and advisory groups, as well as offering lab services, to assist with further development in this industry.

Biodiesel Troubleshooting
By helping to troubleshoot cold-weather handling issues with biodiesel, AURI will help ensure a strong future for Minnesota’s biodiesel industry.