April 2015 Newsletter

AgVA Investment Portfolio


On February 22nd of this year, Ag Ventures Alliance Cooperative (AgVA) and Cellulose Sciences International (CSI) of Madison, Wis., completed a financing agreement resulting in the formation of a new joint venture, Stover Ventures, LLC.  Stover Ventures will commercialize CSI’s patented biomass treatment process for producing highly digestible feed products and high value specialty chemicals from agricultural residues.  The process offers both economic and practical benefits for corn growers and dairy and beef producers.

Corn stover management is an area of growing concern for growers in high yielding areas of the Corn Belt.  The increased popularity of BT traits and continuous corn planting rotations result in annual residue that exceeds the minimum amounts required for soil health.  Growers are spending more money through products and tillage practices to cope with the increased residue, but are still experiencing yield drags as a result of excessive residue.  Nearly all university and private research available shows yield increases in continuous corn when some stover is harvested the previous year.  Stover Ventures will convert harvested excess stover into marketable and transportable products, providing growers extra revenue per acre and effectively managing excess residue.

Feed prices for livestock producers have been volatile in recent years.  Digestible fiber sources are increasingly in short supply as a result of lower planted acres.  Finding new sources for both feed and energy supplies from shrinking acres will be required to feed and fuel a growing and hungry world. Stover Ventures will address these needs by providing a new source of highly digestible fiber for inclusion in dairy or cattle rations.  Livestock producers will be able to utilize Stover Ventures’ product in their rations to improve income to feed cost ratios.

AgVA has committed seed funds to launch the venture, with additional funds available if feed trials remain positive.  CSI is providing an exclusive license of the patent and technical expertise.  Brad Saeger, an ag business developer based in Willmar, Minn., has been retained to lead the development effort for the new company.  Stover Ventures will begin pilot-scale production and dairy feeding trials in late May or early June of this year, with commercial-scale facilities scheduled to begin production in 2017.

Cellulose Sciences International is based in Madison, Wis.  It was founded in 2007 to undertake research on behalf of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.  In parallel with that work, an effort was made to make biomass more digestible.  The early work on wood pulp was successful so the effort was expanded to include corn stover.  The proprietary process was even more successful with corn stover.

Meet Your Board of Directors

Steve Trainer has been on the Ag Ventures Alliance board since 2013. He joined AgVA as a charter member, in February, 1999. Steve is married to Jane Trainer and they have one grown son, Christopher who is a Certified Financial Analyst. Jane is retired from Target in Mason City. Jane and Steve reside in Mason City, Iowa.

Steve grew up on the family farm in Worth County. He graduated from Northwood-Kensett High School where he earned the prestigious “Iowa FFA Farmer Degree.” After high school he attended North Iowa Community College for two years, where he graduated in 1968.

Steve worked at what was then Northwestern States Portland Cement from 1968 until he retired as a heavy equipment operator there in 2008. He started farming the family farm in 1975 but continued to work full-time at the cement plant for another 33 years. Steve farmed until this spring, when he sold his farm equipment and rented out his land.

Steve owns a few antique cars and antique tractors and likes to go on tractor rides. He loves all kinds of motor sports and will travel anywhere to attend a race, even Australia where he and his wife have visited friends that they met at races.

Steve is an active member of St. James Lutheran Church in Mason City, where he has served as deacon and as vice-president of the church council. Steve was also on the board of the Mason City Farmers Night School, serving as its president for two years.

Annual Meeting Held March 10th at Music Man Square

Over 100 members and friends attended Ag Ventures Alliance Cooperative’s seventeenth annual meeting on March 10, 2015, at Music Man Square in Mason City, Iowa. Lunch was provided for those in attendance. President, Chuck Souder, presided over the meeting. Joshua Remington, executive director of the FFA Foundation presented the keynote address, David Underwood, AgVA’ s Treasurer, presented the financial report. Jude Conway, AgVA’s executive director, presented a report on his first year with AgVA and he also presented a portfolio update.

Mark Edelman of Boone, Iowa, was elected to the board for a three year term. Chuck Souder, Rudd, Iowa, Alan McGregor, Charles City, IA and Sterling Young, Mason City, Iowa were re-elected to three year terms; and Mark Hanna, Joice, Iowa was re-elected to a two year term.

FloMetrix and Rowbot, two companies where AgVA has investments, displayed their products and services at the meeting and answered members’ questions about their products. As a bonus, each person in attendance received their choice of either an AgVA coffee mug or a travel mug.

 New AgVA Officers Elected

At the March 13, 2015 AgVA board of directors meeting the following members were re-elected to serve as officers of the organization for the coming year:

Chuck Souder, President, Rudd, Iowa
David Nelson, Vice President, Belmond, Iowa
David Underwood, Treasurer, Clear Lake, Iowa
Mark Hanna, Past President, Joice, Iowa
Cathy Kaune, Secretary, Mason City, Iowa

Farm Rescue

Farm Rescue is a one-of-a-kind nonprofit organization that provides planting, harvesting and haying assistance to farm families that have experienced a major injury, illness or natural disaster. They give families a chance to continue their livelihood by providing the necessary equipment and manpower free of charge. Farm Rescue provides assistance to farm families in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and eastern Montana. Farm Rescue has assisted over 300 farm families in crisis since 2006. Their mission is to help family farmer’s bridge crises so they have an opportunity to continue viable operations. Their volunteers can assist in planting up to 1,000 acres free of charge. To apply: call 701-252-2017 or go towww.farmrescue.org . Applications will be accepted at any time. Ag Ventures Alliance has become a bronze sponsor.

ISU Bus Trip

On Wednesday, March 25, 2015, Ag Ventures Alliance hosted a bus trip to the Center for Crops Utilization Research (CCUR), Bioeconomy Institute (BEI), and BioCentury Research Farm (BCRF) at Iowa State University (ISU). Twenty-five people took the bus or met at the University. We left the Sears parking lot in Mason City at 7:30 am to make the trek south to Iowa State University.

Arriving at the Food Science building on the ISU campus early, we waited briefly for our tour to begin with Darren Jarboe at the Center for Crops Utilization Research. CCUR is focused on adding value to Midwest crops, bio renewables development, the application of biotechnology to increase value, and technology transfer to the private sector.

CCUR has a variety of pilot plant processing and support space available for wet and dry processing, fermentation, and product recovery. Our group had the opportunity to observe some of the work being done with Laurel BioComposite on their research and development of bioplastics and bio composites. This is one way CCUR is developing new materials to address environmental concerns and add value to Iowa’s agricultural crops.

After leaving the Center for Crops Utilization Research, our group headed over to the ISU Alumni Center for an early lunch catered by Hickory Park. During this time, our group was joined by the staff of the Agriculture Entrepreneurship Initiative (AgEI) program and a few of their students.

The Agriculture Entrepreneurship Initiative is a program on the ISU campus that offers students the opportunity and knowledge to advance their own business ideas while also providing them with real world leaning experiences. AgVA has been a sponsor of AgEI for a few years now and over lunch our members were given the opportunity and time to interact with students who regularly participate in different programs offered by AgEI.

After lunch we visited the Bioeconomy Institute (BEI) located in the new Bio renewables building on the ISU campus. The BEI is responsible for seeking out advancements in the use of bio renewable resources for the production of fuels, energy, chemicals, and materials. This portion of the tour was split between a short meeting with Jill Euken and another with Marge Rover who took us into the laboratories where we learned about research being done on bio char. Biochar is the solid product of thermochemically processing biomass and used for both agronomic and horticulture purposes. Bio char has been shown to increase the soil fertility by improving nutrient and water retention, lowering soil acidity and density and increasing microbial activity in the soil.

Our last stop of the day was at the BioCentury Research Farm (BCRF) located just west of Ames, IA. The BCRF is the first in the nation integrated research and demonstration facility. Here we were able to see what is being done for research and training on corn stover, AgVA’s most recent investment in corn stover conversion technology. After learning about corn stover, our group went into a snug greenhouse to see the research being done on algae, which has a promising biomass capable of being used in the production of biofuels.

After a long day of walking around different research facilities, we departed by bus back to Mason City, IA. Those who attended the tour generally felt as though they had gained interesting and new information about bio char and corn stover, but overall our members most enjoyed meeting students who, like themselves, aspire to become entrepreneurs within the agriculture industry.

Welcome New AgVA Members

Alan & Cathy McGregor, Farmers – Charles City, IA

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