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NDSU Center Created for Renewable Fuels and Products

NDSU forms Bio Energy and Product Innovation Center.

Organizers envision great potential for the newly created Bio Energy and Product Innovation Center (BioEPIC) at NDSU. The center, approved by the State Board of Higher Education on Nov. 15, will identify and enhance opportunities for expanding North Dakota’s role in producing fuel and new products in addition to food, feed and fiber.

The center will be headed by co-directors Ken Hellevang, professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering, and David Saxowsky, associate professor of agribusiness and applied economics.

“The opportunities related to renewable fuels and products are huge, and North Dakota is a prime spot for that industry to evolve,” said NDSU President Joseph A. Chapman. “NDSU has more than 60 faculty and staff from about 15 departments and the research extension centers already involved in these efforts. The importance of this center is to bring all those people together, and coordinate programs and activities so we can help grow the economy of the state.”

The inter-disciplinary BioEPIC, is intended to offer a single site within NDSU for targeted research, extension, education and technology transfer related to biomass production, harvesting, transportation and conversion to bioproducts.

According to Hellevang, the center’s objectives are to develop emerging technologies, coordinate research activities, increase process efficiency, energize business and industry investment in biomass and bioproducts, stimulate student interest and learning and help revitalize communities.

“The center will also develop action plans for NDSU to work with agriculture, industry, higher education and government agencies to capture these opportunities,” said Hellevang. “The center offers stakeholders access to coordinated multidisciplinary research, education and technology transfer.”

“North Dakota has had an incredible history with the energy and agriculture industries as the backbone of the state. What we are looking at here is to have these two industries move closer together,” explained D.C. Coston, vice president for agriculture and university extension. “This opens opportunities that will complement both the existing industries, and it will be a marriage that will grow new opportunities.”

Saxowsky said, ""This is an exciting time for agriculture and our rural communities. We are experiencing the early stages of a long-term fundamental change in how our society thinks about energy and consumer products. Rather than relying almost exclusively on fossil fuels, there is worldwide interest and excitement in developing a wide range of technologies that will use a variety of plants for our energy and products in the future."

The center evolved out of activities of the NDSU Biomass and Bioproducts Initiative. An all-day summit held in May, called the “NDSU BioOpportunities Workshop,” attracted more than 70 people representing private industry, government and producers. Many of them expressed a strong interest in moving forward with such a center.

North Dakota is the top producer of 14 crops in the United States and a major producer of many other crops. Some of those major crops, such as wheat, canola, soybeans, corn and perennial grasses, are expected to play an important role in the expanding markets for biomass and bioproducts.

“NDSU's long history of researching and educating about agriculture and the use of agricultural commodities for food and products assures that our institution, in close collaboration with others, will contribute to the successful pursuit of these opportunities,” Saxowsky said.

For additional information, contact Coston at (701) 231-7656 or visit http://www.ndsu.edu/bioopportunities.

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Editor:Steve Bergeson, (701) 231-6101, steven.bergeson@ndsu.edu
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