Hillsdale - Utilizing Crops - September 15, 2011
Daily News/Holly Roney
Farm2Factory meeting held
Innovative minds are leading the agricultural and manufacturing industries of Hillsdale County toward a productive future.
The Hillsdale Economic Development Partnership (HEDP) hosted a meeting for its Farm2Factory bio-manufacturing initiative on Thursday, September 15, at Johnny T's to discuss their goals and gain support from farmers and manufacturers in the county.
"This was an initial meeting to bring the manufacturing and agricultural communities together and have a conversation about what the opportunities are and what part they play," said Sue Smith, executive director of HEDP. "The heavy lifting has been done (for this project), we just need to bring it to the local level."
The project will focus on different ways to utilize crops - mainly soy and corn in this area - for production parts for global customers. Soy and corn's non-edible bio-mass can be used to make products ranging from alternative fuel, to coffee cups, to comforters and diapers.
Eighty percent of the soy grown in Michigan is sent out of state for processing. Leaders at the meeting believe that this is a waste of money and resources. One of the purposes of the meeting was for the mapping of assets in the community to help everyone realize their combined potential.
"It's my job to look for opportunities for Hillsdale County to utilize what we have in the agriculture community for the greater good,"Smith said. "this is a very natural fit."
"The County Commissioners will work with the community (for this project). We're not going to stand in people's way. We're going to encourage you the best we can." District 1 commissioner Pare Hayes told those present.
Hillsdale County has the resources available to process their own crops for manufacturing products and certainly the crops. According to the Hillsdale Council, 78 percent of the acreage in the county is cropland.
The HEDP also has the benefit of resources at the state universities to further their research. It has recently been discovered by a research team led by Michigan State University that using an ammonia-based solvent may make pretreating biomass to be used for bio-fuel easier and more cost-effective.
"This is something that CAN happen. We CAN make a difference," said Davie Cloyd, vice president of project management at Fairway Innovations and one of the guests present. "We have the opportunity to make a change and give this community what it needs - hope."