Plan to turn corn stover into plastic polymers wins AgriNovus challenge
AgriNovus Indiana, a non-profit focused on growing Indiana’s agbioscience economy, announced in December that FiberX of Hammond, Ind., has won the Producer-Led Innovation Challenge, awarding them $25,000 to advance commercialization of their solution.
In partnership with the Indiana Corn Marketing Council (ICMC) and Indiana Soybean Alliance (ISA), the Producer-Led Innovation Challenge tasked companies, entrepreneurs, students and innovators with creating new revenue streams from current on-farm processes to increase efficiency and return on investment for producers’ operations.
“Agriculture is the only economy in the world that touches every person on the planet, because it centers on food,” said Mitch Frazier, president and CEO of AgriNovus. “This challenge sought to identify new innovations that enable farmers to generate additional revenue streams while simultaneously meeting the growing global demand for a sustainable food system.”
FiberX works with corn growers to source and convert corn stover into a feedstock for the chemical and materials sectors. The company’s portfolio includes natural fiber-reinforced plastic polymer pellets and fiber for the plastic injection molding industry. These biocomposite plastics offer superior strength and cost-effectiveness, potentially replacing up to 50 percent of petroleum-based plastic polymers.
FiberX is focused on customers producing durable products for long-term use such as outdoor furniture. Their team, comprised of Dave Skibinski, Wade Lange and Tom Santelli, has already received a Manufacturing Readiness Grant from Conexus Indiana and an Innovation Voucher for Elevate Ventures.
ISA Board Director Denise Scarborough, a farmer from Lacrosse, Ind., and ICMC Board Director Janis Highley, a farmer from Warren, Ind., were among the contest’s judges.
“Producers are always looking for better ways to make our farms more efficient,” Scarborough said. “New technology is a key way to achieve those goals. ISA is excited to continue supporting this contest. There were many interesting and diverse projects; it was very difficult to select one, clear winner.”
Highley concurred. “New technologies allow farmers to consider changes that could help their farms,” she explained. “Farmers are usually early adopters of new technology because it can add to their success of family-owned farms. Like our winner, many successful innovations begin with the idea of solving a problem.”
In addition to the $25,000 grand prize, Purdue DIAL Ventures presented prize money to the top two student teams from Purdue University. EcoTrack, founded by Purdue student Corey Tuinstra, was awarded $4,000 for its digitally enabled audit management system. YieldSmart was awarded $2,000 for their precision agriculture solution focused on data-backed decision making. Their team is comprised of Purdue students Anton Josifovski and Isha Shamim.