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Cargill gives to Iowa State’s bioeconomy program
Iowa Correspondent

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — Nearly a month after getting a $1 million commitment from the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF), Iowa State University (ISU)’s pioneering bioeconomy program received another financial boost of $600,000 from Cargill, Inc. to help equip students for job opportunities in the explosive biorenewable energy industry.

“Considering that both Cargill and Iowa State are squarely at the intersection of agriculture and energy, Cargill’s investment in Iowa State’s Bioeconomy Initiative makes sense in many ways,” said David Raisbeck, Cargill vice chair.

“Cargill is essentially an ‘energy’ company,” he said. “Not only is Cargill a leading producer of food products, providing energy to humans, plants and animals, we’re also a leading biofuels producer in Europe and the United States.”

The Ames, Iowa-based university’s nationally-recognized Bioeconomy Initiative develops technologies for converting crop and plant materials into chemicals, fuels, fibers and energy, and educates students in these processes, he added.

In addition, ISU created the nation’s first graduate program in biorenewable resources and is one of the few schools to offer master’s and doctoral degrees in this field.

Robert Brown, ISU Bergles professor in thermal science and IFBF director of biorenewables programs, said ISU would develop the Cargill-sponsored programs over the next three years, with laboratory development starting this fall and new courses offered as early as the spring of 2007.

“Iowa State is leading the nation in training students how to transform biological materials into bio-based products that can substitute for products currently produced from petroleum,” he said. “We are pleased to have Cargill supporting our efforts to train future scientists and engineers for careers in the emerging bioeconomy.”

By introducing undergraduates to biorenewables early in their academic careers, Brown said students would be able to gain interest, develop skills and be prepared to make decisions that influence and support work in biorenewables.

“These students would develop real-world skills in a range of disciplines that uniquely position them for success in the growing bioeconomy field,” he said.

Last month, the IFBF committed $1 million to the ISU College of Agriculture for the university-wide Bioeconomy Initiative.

“Iowa State University’s Bioeconomy Initiative is helping Iowa become a national leader in developing new sources of energy, fuels and other products from renewable, Iowa-based resources rather than from petroleum,” said ISU President Gregory Geoffroy at a June 13 news conference, which was held at the ISU’s IFBF Pavilion in Kildee Hall.

“The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation’s generous support for our efforts in this area is a strong acknowledgement of the high-quality work of our faculty, staff and students in developing our biorenewable resources, and we are very grateful to Farm Bureau for their support,” he said.

IFBF President Craig Lang said the organization’s gift would be used to provide support for the Office of Biorenewables Programs, including additional faculty and staff salaries and new collaborations in research, educational and outreach activities.

“Iowa is blessed with abundant agricultural assets that are critical in developing alternative energy sources,” Lang said. We must develop these sources at home, before the opportunity slips past us.

“These sources translate into jobs for rural Iowa, less dependence on foreign oil, new markets for our farmers and more opportunity for Iowans,” he said. “We’re pleased to partner with a high-caliber institute such as Iowa State to help leverage these assets, nurtured from our farmers, and lead the nation in renewable energy development.”

Wendy Wintersteen, dean of ISU’s College of Agriculture and a member of the Office of Biorenewables Programs executive committee, said ISU is a leader in training students to transform biological materials into high-quality, cost-effective, bio-based products.

Brown said Cargill has had a long-standing partnership with ISU, including giving more than $1.6 million in cash and more than $16 million in in-kind technology software since 1999, and hiring more than 400 ISU graduates since 1998.

“Iowa State is uniquely positioned to provide the leadership and scientific expertise for the emerging bioeconomy,” he said. “Across campus, we have more than 50 faculty working on cross-disciplinary research, education and extension programs. We also are located in the epicenter of biorenewable production, whether it be for ethanol, biodiesel, biomass or a future use.”

According to Raisbeck, the four new components of ISU’s Bioeconomy Initiative that Cargill’s grant would create are:

•Freshmen Experiences in Biorenew-ables: Using laboratory modules in biorenewables, freshmen would create, analyze and report on bio-based processes and products.

•Common Laboratory in Bio-based Technologies: This laboratory will provide students with the skills needed to work in bio-based industries.

•Course Work in Biobased Technologies: Upper-class undergraduate and graduate students would enhance their knowledge of advanced bio-based technologies by developing and teaching interdisciplinary courses in biorenewable resources.

•International Experiences in Biorenewables: These experiences would prepare graduate students to work in the global bioeconomy by providing opportunities to interact with researchers and students from the European biorenewables community.

Headquartered in Minneapolis, Cargill is a provider of food, agricultural and risk management products and services, and employs 142,000 people in 61 countries.