This quarter, Ag Innovation News is highlighting one of the newest individuals elected to AURI’s board of directors, Larry Johnson. He joins the organization after spending many years in various agriculture and value-added roles and AURI heartily welcomes him to the board. Read on to learn more about Director Johnson.
AIN: What are your goals in joining the AURI Board of Directors?
LJ: I hope to be able to utilize my experiences and business network to contribute to the success of AURI clients and benefit the organization. From a personal perspective, it will enable me to stay more closely involved with agriculture and new product development.
AIN: Which agribusiness do you represent?
LJ: I represent agribusiness through my consulting business, LLJ Consulting and Business Development, which focuses on the ethanol industry specifically and the bioprocessing sector in general, primarily using cereal grains (First Generation) and crop residues (Second Generation) as feedstocks.
AIN: Please give us some highlights around your agriculture background.
LJ: I was a full time cash grain farmer from 1964 to 1988 along with producing hatching eggs from 7,000 turkey laying hens per year. My seven years on the National Corn Growers Association board (1982-1988) provided me with a broader perspective of our nation’s agriculture and an awareness of the potential value locked up in our commodities and the need to diversify into alternative markets. After my 25 years in production agriculture, I provided a variety of services to the ethanol industry, from marketing with the Minnesota Dept. of Ag to the development of dozens of ethanol projects around the country as a private consultant and as business development director for Delta T Corporation. The last few years, my focus has been on the tremendous potential of corn stover as a feedstock to replace countless petroleum-based products.
AIN: Have you worked with value-added agriculture in the past?
LJ: Yes. As I phased out my farming operation in the late eighties, I had confidence in the future of value-added opportunities in agriculture. Recognizing that my resume and formal education was limited in 1988, I secured the first of 10 annual, part-time contracts with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to assist in expanding the market for ethanol. We developed many promotions and a seminar series to educate mechanics, dealers, and vo-tech students in both the auto and small engine industries; a program that became known as the “Ethanol Answerman”. It soon became obvious that just expanding the market for ethanol was not enough; we needed to develop a processing industry in Minnesota. That early effort led to the building of 21 ethanol plants that today produce about 1.2 billion gallons of ethanol from 430 million bushels of corn every year.
AIN: Do you have any experience with AURI in the past?
LJ: I have utilized the knowledge base of AURI staff as well as some specific client product research on corn stover.
AIN: What direction do you see value-added agriculture going over the next 3 years?
LJ: Consumers are demanding carbon reduction and products that are environmentally-friendly as well as locally grown. Fortunately, process technology, microbiology and new chemical applications are rapidly advancing, creating new products that I couldn’t have dreamed about a few years ago.
AIN: What do you hope to accomplish during the next 3 years?
LJ: I hope to provide political guidance and support for the organization’s efforts as well as contribute to the success of new projects and expand the organizational vision of what is possible.
AIN: What kinds of projects/initiatives do you feel have the best opportunities in Minnesota today?
LJ: I have assisted the BioEconomy Coalition of Minnesota to pass the Biochemical Production Incentive legislation as a means to develop a biochemical industry in Minnesota, similar to how we created an ethanol industry in the state. There is also huge potential in the food and personal products industries, an area in which I am excited to learn more.
AIN: What would you like to see AURI accomplish during your term on the board?
LJ: Continue with their excellent track record and expand the public recognition of the successes and potential economic benefits of adding value to Minnesota’s agricultural products.
AIN: Do you have a philosophy about the role of the Board of Directors?
LJ: I believe directors of all boards must aggressively aspire to bring new ideas and improve the operation and vitality of the organization. Everyone has a viewpoint of some kind, and a quality board can unify and expand those viewpoints into a strategic vision to create great ideas and outcomes.