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Standing on the shoulders of giants

–by Teresa Spaeth

As AURI celebrates 25 years of growing small businesses and supporting Minnesota agriculture, it is a time of looking back and looking forward. I’m reminded of the metaphor of “standing on the shoulders of the giants who came before us,” which means to discover truth by building on previous discoveries. AURI and our partners have been working together to discover new uses for agriculture commodities. Those discoveries, and the people who made them, are an integral part of AURI’s story and success.

Many times, we don’t realize that our day-to-day work may make history. For example, it was in AURI’s first decade that some staff worked with Minnesota Soybean on the implementation of biodiesel in the state. Thanks to the work in that arena, biodiesel is now generating $900 million in economic activity for Minnesota and offers a renewable, environmentally friendly fuel option. In addition, AURI and others continue to find new uses for the byproducts that result from the generation of the fuel, adding even more value to soybeans.

In another example, an AURI scientist worked on the development and marketing of soy-based Preference and Destiny surfactants, which are now sold by WinField, a subsidiary of Land ‘O Lakes. The product increases pesticide effectiveness.

While we build in part off of the work of our scientists, just as important are the networks and experience of current and past staff and board members. We hear repeatedly from clients how AURI staff helped to connect them to resources they didn’t know about and thereby increased the speed and success of their efforts to bring a new product or process to market. It takes time and diligent work to build these connections and resources that serve our clients, and we’re grateful for the staff, board members and many partners and supporters around the state who are an important part of our network.

AURI was created in part as the result of a farm crisis—to help find new uses for and increase the value of Minnesota’s agriculture commodities. Today, building on those who came before us, AURI is helping to create opportunities that go well beyond the farm—to all parts of Minnesota, rural and urban—to ensure a strong future. Farmers are helping create economic development across the state, growing the economy through made-in-Minnesota products and processes.