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Innovation Superstars

What’s your favorite innovation?

AURI’s scientific and project development staff, with decades of experience, were asked to identify AURI project “stand-outs.” Their responses ranged from unconventional food products to new uses for waste to kitty litter. Not only have these innovations added value to ag products, most have created jobs and economic activity in rural communities. AURI played a role in all of these innovations…

His and her health breads

French Meadow Bakery Men’s and Women’s breads

A decade ago, Lynn Gordon, French Meadow Bakery owner asked AURI food scientist Charan Wadhawan to help her develop breads with enhanced nutritional benefits. One was targeted for women’s health; the other for men. “We established target levels of protein and fiber per serving,” and identified ingredients with health properties “backed by research” such as soy isoflavones and whole grains, Wadhawan says.

Today, the breads are marketed throughout the United States and Gordon has been interviewed by ABC, CBS and CNN. Recently, French Meadow’s bread line was purchased by

Rich Products.

Cut the gas

Low-O soybean varieties

Some sugar molecules in soybean fiber – called oligosaccharides — are difficult for baby pigs and poultry to digest, causing gas. AURI and U of M researchers developed an extraction process to make low-O soybean meal, but it wasn’t cost effective.

“We found folks growing varieties of soybeans with much lower amounts of oligosaccharides,” says Doug Root, AURI scientist. “That’s a real benefit. … They were the first to grow low-O soybeans specifically for feed.”

AURI is still conducting tests on the low-O bean varieties. “We’ll get the information out so that the benefits of low-O soybean meal are widely known,” Root says. “Soybean producers and processors are paying attention to our studies,” and its likely low-O soymeal feed will be available in the future. The low-O soybean trait may also be valuable for edamame or tofu.

Sizzling poultry


Ferndale Market turkey sausages

Ferndale Market turkey producers near Cannon Falls asked AURI meat scientist Carissa Nath to help them design fresh turkey sausages to expand their markets. Ferndale’s distributor, Ron-mar Foods, noticed chicken sausage’s growing popularity and “asked if we could capture some of those flavors in our inventions,” Nath says.

With a good understanding of white and dark meat characteristics, Nath determined the best combination to ensure “a great texture in the final product.” She then experimented with various ingredient blends and settled on three flavors: red pepper and garlic, spinach and feta cheese and Italian.” Formulating food products requires scientific knowledge of how ingredients will perform and interact when they are added.

The sausages are copacked at Lorentz Meats in Cannon Falls and distributed by Ron-mar — primarily to Twin Cities food co-ops but Ferndale expects to expand markets.

Homegrown energy

Biomass-fueled greenhouse

The Kreidermacher family in Altura, Minn. operates the Pork and Plant Greenhouse where they raise perennials and annuals in the summer and poinsettias for the holidays in their 65,000 square-foot facility. In the winter 2007, they decided to become more energy independent, using biomass they produce to heat their greenhouse.

AURI scientist Al Doering investigated densifying a variety of feedstocks into pellet fuel and helped the Kreidermachers build a pelleting facility on their farm. The greenhouse no longer uses propane and their heat costs are stable.

Sweet as molasses

Xylose extraction from ag residues

AURI’s Doug Root, scientist, and Randy Hilliard, project director, are working with the Reluceo company to extract xylose (C5 Molasses) from agricultural residues such as corn cobs and wheat straw. The ultimate goal is to supply a C5 molasses to the bio-based polymer industry for production of new plastics.

VAsh to food

Densifying waste ash for corn fertilizer

In 2007, fueled by high-fertilizer prices, AURI started investigating using ash waste to fertilize corn fields. AURI’s Al Doering evaluated technologies for densifying ash from renewable-energy systems, so it could be land applied without ‘dust’ being an issue. Nutrient trials were conducted at the University of Minnesota research center in Waseca with

good results.

Industry partners included Corn Plus Ethanol in Winnebago, North American Fertilizer in Olivia and Chippewa Valley Ethanol in Benson — all in Minnesota. Two of the facilities have created new jobs for handling and applying ash. “And grain producers have a new ag-based, competitively-priced fertilizer for crop production,” Doering says.

Kitty crumbles

Swheat Scoop cat litter

Pet Care Systems started making ag-based, flushable cat litter in 1998 — first as a ground, wheat-only litter. AURI’s Al Doering helped the Detroit Lakes company upgrade to a granulated litter, which he tested for sorbency, clumping and ammonia-control and ensured it would be certified for septic systems. The process was patented and commercialized.

Michael Sparby, AURI project director, says assisting Swheat Scoop with marketing and packaging was his first project when he started at AURI 14 years ago. “The concept of alternative litter was extremely new,” he says. Innovator Mike Hughes was ahead of his time, targeting a specific market— “single female cat owners, ages 25 to 45 years, living in East and West Coast apartments,” Sparby says.

A major share of the company has been sold to Farmers Union Industries and the product is marketed throughout the United States in Target and pet stores and in some

international markets.

“Over 12 new jobs were created, the company is utilizing thousands of bushels of wheat from Minnesota and the Dakotas, and a spin-off companion (Swheat Stall horse bedding) has been developed,” Doering says.