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Executive Director’s Column

A man ahead of his time, Leonardo da Vinci drew elaborate sketches of flying machines, helicopters, weapons and irrigation equipment more than 500 years ago. Though unheard of back then, today many of his concepts are commonplace. As the saying goes, timing is everything.

By their very nature, innovations are ideas ahead of their time. At AURI, we have seen many ideas

come though the door in our 15-year history, and we try to help inventors make the most of

current opportunities. Sometimes innovations match perfectly with market opportunities. Other

times, the market is not ready and more work needs to be done.

For example, 10 years ago not many had heard of global positioning systems. Today GPS units help

apply appropriate amounts of fertilizer to farm fields; they steer farm implements and even

locate hot fishing spots.

Nearly 15 years ago, AURI began working with the former U.S. Bureau of Mines on a

vegetable-oil-based fuel for underground mining equipment. The cleaner-burning fuel was perfect

for conditions with limited ventilation. Today that fuel, called biodiesel, is available at

dozens of Minnesota locations and will soon be produced by our state’s farmers. In the late

1980s, few people were aware of the fuel or the work that was being done to develop biodiesel –

currently one of the most talked about renewable liquid fuels.

As you will note reading this issue of Ag Innovation News, innovations abound in agriculture –

whether it is crude oil from hog manure (see Elsewhere in Ag Innovations, page 10) or using

ethanol coproducts to replace medicines in swine diets (see page 3). We are dedicated to helping

innovators realize those ideas, because who knows what we’ll be talking about in 10 years.