The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) has held two Consider Corn Challenge contests, garnering nine winners with unique technologies that would improve a product or process by using field corn to produce biobased materials. If all nine of the Consider Corn Challenge winners reached full commercialization with products available in the marketplace, the potential for additional corn demand would be approximately 2.9 billion bushels.
“The team is discussing having another Consider Corn Challenge because we know there is still a lot of untapped potential out there, and researchers have new and innovative ideas to bring to the table using corn as an industrial feedstock,” said NCGA Market Development Action Team (MDAT) and Nebraska farmer Dan Wesely. “This is an important area of focus because it will set us up for driving corn demand long-term.”
Previous Consider Corn Challenge winners have recently received more funding for their technologies. ExoPolymer announced the Investment Group of Santa Barbara (IGSB) is providing seed money to help them continue to conduct research for targeted markets. ExoPolymer produces biopolymers. Furthermore, Exopolymer received first-round funding from USDA for a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant.
“As recipients of the Consider Corn Challenge award from the NCGA, we have been able to deepen our technology base regarding the differential properties of our novel materials,” said Derek Wells with ExoPolymer. “Due to these efforts, we are currently investigating several targeted market applications and feasibility studies at scale. The CCC award also helped to put a spotlight on our innovative approach, enabling us to raise additional funding and continue our progress. We are grateful for the recognition by the NCGA and are looking forward to further applying our technology for additional valuable uses of this important agricultural product.”
The convergence of available corn-based feedstocks and consumer demand represents an opportunity for stakeholders in the sustainable biomaterials industry and will help drive corn demand. Bioplastics are an example of an area of potential growth where corn could play a large role, replacing petro-based plastics and packaging. Corn is an affordable, sustainable and abundant feedstock for the bio-based chemical industry to use.