A new report out shows that Minnesota’s economic future may well be rooted in its historic leadership in agricultural production. Agbioscience as a Development Driver: Minnesota Agbioscience Strategy, undertaken by the world-renowned Battelle Technology Partnership Practice, includes an assessment of Minnesota’s key capacities and opportunities in agricultural research and a suggested strategy for the state. The Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI), the Minnesota Corn Research & Promotion Council and Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council commissioned the study, and the report development was guided by a steering team representing government, farm organizations, nonprofits and others.*
“This initiative is about creating a vision and strategy to transform Minnesota’s fundamental strength in agriculture into leading-edge innovation and economic growth for the state,” says AURI Executive Director Teresa Spaeth. “This is an honest and detailed assessment of the critical resources we already have in place in Minnesota—and how we can leverage them into agbioscience leadership both nationally and internationally, resulting in economic growth and new jobs in the state.”
Battelle interviewed more than 100 individuals across Minnesota including university faculty, researchers and research administrators as well as professionals in applied research, technology transfer and economic development. The study identified four key ag-based bioscience research platforms for Minnesota:
- Microbial Agbioscience including biosecurity, crop protection, genomics, biotechnology, animal and human vaccines, and diagnostics. These sectors are important in ensuring adequate food production and food security to feed a growing global population. The total global market for microbes and microbial products is projected to exceed $259 billion in 2016.
- Resilient, Efficient & Productive Agricultural Systems including areas such as green chemicals, renewable materials, emissions control, climate change adaptation and soil preservation. These sectors are significant in reducing dependence on petroleum-based products and in mitigating human impact on the environment. Demand for agricultural biotechnology products in the U.S. is forecasted to reach $17.7 billion in 2016.
- Biobased Industrial Products such as biofuels, biobased materials and chemicals, forest products and utilization of agricultural coproducts. AURI has already led a number of initiatives in this platform that will serve as a strong foundation for future development. Biomaterial demand in the U.S. is forecasted to reach $4.6 billion in 2016.
- Value-Added Food and Health Products including health supplements, animal feed and nutrition, and reduced calorie flavorful foods. As a major producer of grains and oilseeds, Minnesota can add considerable value to its agricultural production through greater investment in this sector. Overall, the U.S. is leading the global nutraceuticals market with more than 33.1 percent of the market share in 2010, and this market is anticipated to grow further.
For the identified technology platforms, a more detailed strategic investment plan will be developed, involving:
- Required research and development enhancements;
- Technology infrastructure investments; and
- Specific “connecting” activities to bring industry and research players together.
“Too often these types of reports have ended up sitting on shelves, or have committees formed to discuss the reports, but no progress is seen. At AURI, we have a laser-focus on implementation. It’s how we help our clients take their ideas through to reality. And we’re going to apply that experience in implementation to this strategy recommended by Battelle,” explains Spaeth.
AURI is now working with the University of Minnesota, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, the state’s 14 research and promotion councils and other stakeholders to identify the most promising agricultural research needs, and begin aligning the people and places necessary to capitalize on these opportunities.
“By having a strategic and targeted approach to agbioscience development in Minnesota, we can make better use of resources, create collaborative public-private partnerships, attract more research and grant dollars into the state, and accelerate the transfer of research into commercialization,” Spaeth said. “Ultimately, this initiative will lead to new businesses and economic growth for Minnesota—all founded in our state’s proven success in agriculture.”
Battelle, headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, is the world’s largest nonprofit research and development organization through more than 130 locations globally.
*Steering Team Member Organizations: Farmers Union Industries, First Green Partners, Fredrickson-Byron, Glenmore Consulting, Midwest Dairy Association, Midwest Dairy Foods Research Center, Minnesota Agri-Growth Council, Minnesota Corn Research & Promotion Council, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Minnesota Office of Department of Employment and Economic Development, Minnesota Office of Higher Education, Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council, MnSCU, Minnesota Turkey/Chicken and Egg Association of Minnesota, University of Minnesota, USDA Agricultural Research Service