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Executive Director’s Column

The phrase ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’ is not necessarily true of agricultural products.

Corn isn’t just corn. Soybeans aren’t just soybeans. Wheat isn’t just wheat. All these commodities contain smaller components — oil, starch, germ — that may have as much value as the whole grain, sometimes more. And there is value in the leftovers of processing these ag products.

For ethanol production, the desired corn component is starch, which is converted to sugar, then fermented to produce grain alcohol. The leftovers, dried distiller’s grains, are not just waste but another product that can be used to increase corn’s overall value. DDGs can be used in swine, poultry and cattle rations or even as a biomass energy source.

In biodiesel refining, soybean oil goes through a transesterification process that yields soy methyl esters, otherwise known as biodiesel. A byproduct of biodiesel production is glycerin. Already used in hundreds of applications like soap and toothpaste, glycerin is a valuable coproduct that is receiving lots of attention now that Minnesota’s biodiesel industry is taking off.

Every product and coproduct has value. Our goal at AURI is to provide the assistance necessary to help each Minnesota commodity reach its highest and best use — to get the most value out of each and every component.

This issue of Ag Innovation News includes a special feature on coproducts, an area AURI has focused on for many years. We recognize that developing innovative uses for what once was considered waste is key to increasing a commodity’s overall worth.

Sometimes the sum of the parts is greater than the whole.

Editor’s note: After guiding AURI as executive director for more than eight years, Edgar Olson has announced his intentions to retire in early 2006. More information on his retirement and a possible successor will appear in the next issue of Ag Innovation News.