federal grant of nearly $500,000 will help University of Wisconsin-Stevens
Point researchers work with the vegetable crop industry to explore commercial
uses for crop residue.
Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology (WIST) was awarded a U.S.
Economic Development Administration grant for $499,965. The Regional Innovation
Strategies Program i6 Challenge is a competitive grant program promoting
innovation and entrepreneurship across the country. The EDA received more than
170 applications and selected 25.
project will explore commercializing chemicals from residual organic materials
that remain after specialty vegetable crops are processed.
harvesting and processing operations produce peels, stems and vines. Currently
this material is managed either by land-spreading or use in animal feed. These
residual materials contain numerous chemicals, including vitamins, sugars,
proteins and other compounds such as antioxidants.
for so-called green chemicals -- including pigments, antioxidants and organic
acids for personal care products -- have been growing at more than 10 percent
annually, said Paul Fowler, WIST executive director. “We see an opportunity to
tap this market with naturally occurring products extracted from vegetable
expense and logistics of handling residual organic materials from agricultural
product processing operations has long been a problem of agri-business, a $6
billion industry in Wisconsin. Extracting chemicals from these materials and
assessing their commercial value may turn the problem into an opportunity.
will lead the public-private partnership in a “proof of concept center” that
involves agri-business in nine counties in central and south-central Wisconsin.
Working with producers, processors, researchers, economic development
specialists and trade groups, the center will be a hub for entrepreneurial
participants include Del Monte Foods, which has three vegetable processing
plants in the region; Heartland Farms, a central Wisconsin-based vegetable
grower; Pavelski Legacy Partners, which manages and invests in a diverse
portfolio of companies; Midwest Food Processors Association; and the Wisconsin
Potato and Vegetable Growers Association. The Wisconsin Economic Development
Corp. and WiSys Technology Foundation, a nonprofit supporting UW technology
transfer, will provide advice on commercialization strategies.
WIST laboratory at UW-Stevens Point will analyze the materials to determine the
economic feasibility of extracting particular chemicals. Understanding the
commercialization opportunities goes beyond that, Fowler said.
want to understand which residual materials have the greatest potential for
value gain through diversion to new uses. So a key to this project is the
participation of Wisconsin vegetable growers and processors, who know how the
materials are currently handled, what the costs are and so on,” he said. “We’re
excited and gratified to have the support and participation of these growers,
processors and their associations.”
ranks second in United States for harvested acreage and total production of
processing vegetables and third for production value. Vegetable crop production
and processing supports nearly 30,000 jobs.
three-year project will begin March 1, 2016. Its total expected value of
$1,016,811 includes in-kind contributions of nearly $400,000 from WIST and
$116,880 from project participants, primarily in staff time.
project is expected to substantially benefit vegetable production and
processing industries and increase economic activity, said Tamas Houlihan,
executive director of the Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association.
“With the assets currently in place at UW-Stevens Point and the establishment
of the Proof of Concept Center for vegetable production and processing
residuals, we will be able to develop new opportunities for those low value
materials that otherwise would not be pursued, or would be pursued but at a
much slower pace. We believe significant business opportunities are available
that will allow our members to be more competitive with new and expanded
a series of workshops, a steering committee of representatives from project
participants will propose materials for evaluation based on their knowledge of
the production and processing operations and residuals. WIST will evaluate and
select extraction methods, identify technologies to isolate specific chemical compounds
of commercial value, analyze them and work with partners in determining best
candidates for commercialization.
goal is to evaluate eight to 12 residual streams and identify four concepts for
was founded in 2010 as the entrepreneurial arm of UW-Stevens Point. It works to
develop and transfer ideas and technology from the university to the private
sector to help build Wisconsin’s economy. Part of the College of Natural
Resources, it provides laboratory services, research and education for private