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Focus on AURI’s Core Four

Editor’s Note: This ongoing feature updates readers on activities, projects and events in AURI’s four primary focus areas. For more information, visit

Food Products – Meaty presentations
AURI has been busy this winter connecting with meat processors across Minnesota. In March, AURI meat scientist Carissa Nath gave a presentation on antimicrobial interventions, and their usefulness in small meat facilities, at the Minnesota Association of Meat Processors.

In January, Nath presented on natural and organic meat-processing techniques at the Minnesota Organics Conference. She focused on labeling, processing and handling issues related to natural and organic meat products. Both presentations included results of AURI research initiatives.

Biobased Products – Profiling biomaterials
Looking at conventional plastic characteristics and the potential to integrate biobased materials into plastic manufacturing is the focus of an AURI initiative, coming out of a biobased event in Mankato, Minn.

The plastics industry has developed various products that incorporate biobased materials with desired characteristics, but not all biomaterials have qualities that meet specific needs of the industry. Through this initiative, scientists will profile and catalog conventional material qualities preferred by the plastics industry. The profile will be cross-referenced with biomaterials to provide a roadmap of material qualities needed to advance bioproducts that can compete with conventional plastics.

Renewable Energy IconRenewable Energy – Minnesota Renewable Energy RoundtableIn March, the Minnesota Renewable Energy Roundtable convened at the Earle Brown Heritage Center in Brooklyn Center to explore new developments in renewable energy.

The morning plenary session featured Todd Taylor of the Fredrickson & Byron law firm in Minneapolis, who discussed the state of renewable energy in Minnesota. Other presenters spoke on University of Minnesota intellectual property guidelines, NexGen Energy grant awards, and the governor’s new initiative: Minnesota Business First Stop.

In the afternoon, attendees participated in three panel discussions: alternative feed ingredients from renewable energy coproducts, advancements in biomass and new opportunities for Minnesota biofuels facilities.

Coproducts IconCoproducts – Biomass feasibility study
An AURI initiative is looking at biomass heating feasibility. The study will evaluate various heating elements, fuels, technologies and the costs of half million, 3 million and 5 million Btu biomass systems. A guide will be developed for key industries, such as poultry and greenhouse operations that need to stay competitive as fuel costs rise.

The project’s intent is to build awareness of competitive fossil fuel alternatives, address rising propane costs and demonstrate alternative uses of agriculture and forestry residues. Ultimately, the project could generate enough interest to develop one or two commercial-scale pilot projects, says Randy Hilliard, AURI project director. The pilot plants would demonstrate renewable energy heating systems that use biomass to replace high-cost fuels such as propane.