BY AURI

In January 2016, AURI announced the launch of 13 research initiatives related to one or more of the organization’s four focus areas: renewable energy, biobased products, coproducts and food. The goal of each initiative is to develop new or improved products and processes that utilize Minnesota agricultural products and create added value.

While there have been developments within most of the initiatives, this article highlights one project from each of AURI’s focus areas.

Improving nutritional value of low quality fibers
The focus of this project is to see if a low cost biomass treatment could increase the value of low quality fibers. AURI scientists have conducted analysis on seven biomass fibers treated with calcium hydroxide. Of the fibers analyzed, five have shown a positive response to the treatment in terms of improved energy availability for ruminant animals. The data, which is currently under review, will be used by AURI to create a summary report of the economic advantage of utilizing treated fibers in common feed rations.

Biomass for Cooling System Technologies: A Feasibility Guide
While larger industries have begun adopting biomass cooling system technologies, limited information is available on the benefits these technologies can bring other sectors, namely small-to-medium scale commercial and industrial businesses, as well as residential units.

The outcome is that the feasibility study has shown biomass offers a competitive and often lower cost alternative to traditional energy sources. Also, it is a sustainable and competitive alternative to oil, with some customers reporting a 50 percent reduction in cost compared to using heating oil. In addition, agricultural biomass sources, such as corncobs, could also provide similar cost savings depending on availability and pricing.

Biopreferred Label Program
AURI undertook this initiative to increase recognition of and participation in the USDA’s BioPreferred Program. Split into two phases, this project would use the services of AURI to develop a one-stop resource to help clients better understand the program requirements. AURI would review past projects and clients that could benefit from the program.

Since initiating the project, AURI staff has met with USDA BioPreferred representatives to collaborate on ways to get more businesses familiar with the program and to seek certification. The project is still in development with AURI staff discussing next steps. Meanwhile, AURI is encouraging its clients to pursue the program as a way to tap into growing demand for biobased products.

 Clean labels
The goal of this initiative is to develop a guide for food processors, providing a better understanding of clean labels and a substitute list of natural ingredients for common artificial inputs. This will help them reformulate their products when there is a desire for alternative, natural ingredients.

This new guide will include information on ingredient alternatives in bakery, meat and beverage categories. AURI has, and will continue to, involve stakeholders in the planning and design of the guide. At this point, a draft has been completed and is undergoing an internal review by AURI staff with a release planned for early 2017.