Change may be welcomed or feared. But almost always, it brings opportunity — especially in value-added agriculture.
Brought on by changing global realities, prospects for value-added agriculture are rapidly expanding. In this issue, we have taken a snapshot of what to expect from ag innovators in five major areas: bioproducts, renewable fuels, nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals, food products, and landscape and garden products.
More than ever, consumers are interested in reducing dependence on foreign oil and developing renewable energy sources. Biofuels are especially popular in Minnesota, home to 15 ethanol plants and the first state in the nation to require that all diesel fuel sold here contain two percent biodiesel. While corn and soybeans are now the main stock of biofuels, everything from stalks to food processing and animal wastes is being explored. Ag co-products are also showing up in fertilizers and landscape mulches.
Entrepreneurs are designing adhesives, lubricants, building materials and even cosmetics that substitute renewable products for petroleum ones. Roger Ruan, a University of Minnesota scientist, predicts that someday “biorefining will replace petroleum refining.”
Market researchers are finding consumers want more control over their health, creating demand for food components to prevent or treat disease. Fructooligosaccharides, lutein, soy isoflavones, omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid are some of the ingredients touted or added to food products to increase sales. Small companies can also take advantage of the growth in convenience foods, gourmet markets, organic and natural foods, and food safety awareness. Exports continue to grow, especially for private label and food service products.
In all these areas, AURI is helping businesses and agricultural groups design innovative products to benefit our state’s economy and help revitalize rural communities. The following pages feature some of the research areas and products AURI supports.