Finding Added Value in Minnesota Agriculture – Agweek
WASECA, Minn. — Alan Doering loves his job as a scientist in the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute pilot lab, not only because he helps growers in Minnesota, but because it’s something new every day.
Doering, a senior researcher at the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute, said there was no average day at Waseca’s pilot lab, where he is responsible for managing client projects and collecting and reporting related data. applied research and product development.
“Some days you’re covered in dust,” said Doering, who was a recent guest on the Agweek podcast. “We were working on a food product that’s a natural dye one summer, and we sweat, and wherever that dust got to your face in sweat, it turned your skin purple.”
The Agricultural Utilization Research Institute began nearly 30 years ago to research new ways to use commodities and create new sources of income for Minnesota farmers. Working with producers, entrepreneurs and agribusinesses, AURI helps develop new uses for agricultural products through science and technology, while partnering with companies to bring them to market.
“Our goal has always been to add value to Minnesota agriculture,” said Doering, who has been a scientist at AURI for 22 years.
Doering said there are two avenues in which AURI conducts its work. The first is for projects, where a processor, entrepreneur or producer has a product idea that they need help getting started.
“You come to us, share your idea, fill out a project request, and we can help you out,” Doering said. “We have scientific staff here to provide assistance, but we also have the pilot labs – so if it’s developing a pelleted product, or if you want to run something through an anaerobic digester, and the list is long, we have those capabilities.”
There is also the initiative side of AURI, in which the institute sits down every two years with its stakeholders to hear their main concerns requiring research.
“Then we will develop initiatives that are public information, which will help meet their needs,” Doering said.
Doering said what he loves most about his job is seeing the products AURI helped create that are used around the world today.
“We’ve seen so many different projects, and I guess the most rewarding thing is when you see different ads in magazines, or when you walk by a grocery store or an agricultural store, and you can point to products that AURI has provided support or helped them get to that market,” Doering said.
Doering, who grew up on a farm south of Mankato, Minnesota, continues to be actively involved in farming and raising crops and livestock.
“This job keeps me connected to agriculture and getting a sense of the changes that are happening,” he said. “And that continues to add value to my position.”
Many successful products have come out of AURI’s pilot lab in Waseca, where Doering works, including one that cat owners will find familiar – the sWheat Scoop natural clumping cat litter, which can be found at Walmart, Target or at any store. any large pet store.
The company, which Doering said AURI has worked with for more than 20 years, took wheat that couldn’t be used for human applications or food-grade applications, and developed cat litter.
“And it’s not just about developing a kitty litter, it’s really about identifying the unique characteristics that it brings, such as clumping, hardness of aggregate, how easy it is to is removed from the litter and more importantly how well does it control ammonia because there are natural enzymes that help control ammonia,” Doering said. “So this product was marketed , and it’s been around for at least 30 years, and you can see it on many store shelves.”
Doering said the little cat is a “perfect example” of value-added agriculture.
“He uses about 10,000 acres of wheat or a wheat by-product in this product,” Doering said of the kitty litter. “And everything is produced in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, and this business continues to grow.”