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Campus will allow private industries to create products from co-products of four facilities.
April 9, 2020
Nearly one year after receiving funding from the Minnesota Legislature, the Ag Innovation Campus (AIC) in Crookston, Minn., is making significant progress and remains on track to reach a milestone in July.
In 2019, spurred by an advocacy push from Minnesota farmers, the state legislature approved $5 million toward the AIC in the omnibus agriculture finance bill. The funding will go into effect in the second half of the biennium budget in July 2020.
The AIC will host a specialty crushing facility, providing universities, commodity groups and private seed developers with access to affordable processing that aims to lower costs while promoting the growth of value-added products. Once established, the campus will be home to private industries to create products from the co-products of the four facilities, benefitting all parties, from farm gate to consumers.
“We are very encouraged by the developments we’ve seen in the past several months,” said Minnesota Soybean Growers Assn. (MSGA) vice president Mike Skaug, who chairs the AIC board of directors. “We’re full steam ahead.”
In September 2019, the permit process in Crookston began. The project has continued building momentum. With support from the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (MSR&PC), Jim Lambert has been tapped to serve as AIC project manager.
“This a very exciting initiative that will have a positive impact on – and help drive – the development of value-added agricultural products,” Lambert said. “This project will create a place to teach, innovate, develop and scale new products, better processes and novel technologies.”
MSR&PC will continue hiring a team of contractors to further assist with construction and development.
“We’re determined to see the Ag Innovation Campus to completion, and we’re staffing up to do exactly that,” said Tom Slunecka, chief executive officer of Ag Management Solutions, the organization managing the AIC and both MSR&PC and MSGA.
The nonprofit AIC board of directors includes the MSGA and MSR&PC directors, along with representatives from the city of Crookston, the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute and Plasma Blue.
“We have a broad coalition of voices on the board,” Skaug said. “Everyone’s moving in the same direction: forward.”
“This campus will be the first of its kind in the nation,” Slunecka said. “Farmers drive agriculture with their innovation, and this project will serve that same purpose.”
Agriculture contributes roughly 25% to Minnesota’s gross domestic product, and northwestern Minnesota is home to one of the country’s largest soybean-rich areas. In 2019, the 11 northwestern Minnesota counties near Crookston produced more than 50 million bu. of soybeans.
“It’s fantastic to see this project become a reality for the Crookston area and farmers in northwestern Minnesota,” Minnesota Department of Agriculture commissioner Thom Petersen said. “In the current farm economy, it’s more important than ever to find new ways for farmers to process and market their commodities. The Ag Innovation Campus is a great example of how we can support those efforts.”
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