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Anthony L. Pometto III, Hans van Leeuwen and Mary Rasmussen (left to right) are the prize winning research team from the Iowa State University that came up with the new fungi method. Also contributing but not pictured is Samir Khanal, a former Iowa State research assistant professor, currently at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa.  (Source: Iowa State University, Bob Elbert)
New myco-technology promises to lower production costs by as much as third.

Ethanol production has been blasted by everyone from academia to the UN for its undesirable effect of raising food crop prices.  However, while researchers try to develop new production methods that don't use sugar crops; the current infrastructure chugs along producing more and more corn based ethanol daily.  Barring a dramatic change of course, it seems unlikely that the growth of corn ethanol will stop in the short term.

Thus, while it may not be the best solution, technology such as a new fungal improvement to processing developed by Iowa State still do some good.  The new research was also assisted by researchers at the University of Hawai'i.  It involves growing fungi in leftovers of ethanol production.  The process saves energy, helps recycle more water, and produces higher quality livestock feed, which is a byproduct of the processing.

Hans van Leeuwen, an Iowa State professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering and the leader of the research project states, "The process could change ethanol production in dry-grind plants so much that energy costs can be reduced by as much as one-third."

The rest of the Leeuwen's team is comprised of Anthony L. Pometto III, a professor of food science and human nutrition; Mary Rasmussen, a graduate student in environmental engineering and bio-renewable resources and technology; and Samir Khanal, a former Iowa State research assistant professor who currently is an assistant professor of molecular biosciences and bioengineering at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.  The team won the 2008 Grand Prize for University Research from the American Academy of Environmental Engineers for the research.

The prize was awarded based on merit of research in environmental fields.  The AAEE describes the selection process thusly: "Those chosen for prizes by an independent panel of distinguished experts address the broad range of modern challenges inherent in providing life-nurturing services for humans and protection of the environment.  ... Their innovations and performance illustrate the essential role of environmental engineers in providing a healthy planet."

The Iowa research seeks to fine tune dry-grind ethanol production.  In this type of production, raw corn is ground and then water and enzymes are added.  The enzymes act to break down the corn's starch, into sugars, which are processed by added yeast.  The yeast produces the end product -- ethanol -- through fermentation.  Distillation follows to harvest the ethanol.

For every gallon of fuel recovered, there are approximately six gallons of waste known as stillage.  The brothy waste is rich in organic solids and other organic compounds.  These compounds are harvested by centrifugation and dried; yielding livestock feed known as distillers dried grains.

The leftover stillage contains some smaller solids.  This type of stillage is known as thin stillage.  Typically only a small percentage of this stillage, which contains valuable water and enzymes, can be reused in the production process.  The rest is evaporated and the leftovers are mixed with distillers dried grains to form distillers dried grains with solubles.  The downside is that water and expensive enzymes are lost in the process.

The researchers mixed in a special fungus, Rhizopus microsporus, into the thin stillage.  The fungus thrived off the organic material and was found to remove 80 percent of the organic material from the water, allowing much more of the thin stillage (and thus the water and enzymes) to be recycled.

The leftover fungus hold superior nutrition value and can be harvested for livestock feed.  It’s loaded with protein, amino acids, and other nutrients.  It can be sold as a supplement individually or sold blended with distillers dried grains for a higher rate.  Such feed is suitable for animals like hogs and chickens, which typical distillers dried grains are not as good for.

With the current infrastructure Leeuwen states that the elimination of evaporation of thin stillage would result in a cost savings of $800M yearly.  Furthermore, the process would save $60M per year in enzymes and would reduce the industry's water load by 10B gallons per year.  And there would be more profit, with the nutrient rich fungi feed bringing in almost $400M more yearly.  The overall energy balance of production (and thus efficiency) would also be improved by lowering the inputs needed.

You don't find many investments like this -- the process could be implemented for only $11M in a plant that produces 100M gallons yearly, and it would pay for itself within six months.

The project is funded by grants of $78,806 from the Grow Iowa Values Fund, a state economic development program, and $80,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Iowa Biotechnology Byproducts Consortium.

The researchers have filed for a patent on the new method and are currently looking for investors to help bring it to market.  The bottom line Professor Pometto says is getting the technology out there as fast as possible and improving the struggling industry.  He states, "We will be saving ethanol producers money and energy.  That's the bottom line."



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This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

By KristopherKubicki (blog) on 5/28/2008 2:13:16 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
When I am back in Phoenix Arizona the thought of eating beef turns my stomach.

Your first problem. Eat a nice steak in Chicago or Kansas City and tell me you've been eating the same thing in Phoenix.


RE: No Wonder American beef tastes like rat
By phxfreddy on 5/28/2008 2:22:07 PM , Rating: 1
I have and I still can say it does not compare.

Chicken is the same story.

The only thing that is better in the states currently is the shrimp. For some reason the locals say the shrimp here lost their flavor about 15 years ago. So when in the states I stick to the shrimp for the most part.


RE: No Wonder American beef tastes like rat
By masher2 (blog) on 5/28/2008 6:46:59 PM , Rating: 2
The best shrimp in the world is in Vietnam....just avoid the "beef" there.


By BarkHumbug on 5/29/2008 7:38:28 AM , Rating: 3
"Hey, where did that giant lizard go?"


By theapparition on 5/29/2008 10:25:48 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
The only thing that is better in the states currently is the shrimp.

It's the high levels of mercury that give 'em the flavor.
:P


RE: No Wonder American beef tastes like rat
By Spuke on 5/28/2008 2:24:49 PM , Rating: 2
Lawry's in Beverly Hills has excellent prime rib. I will venture a guess and say you had a bad experience with ONE restaurant and now choose to bad mouth the other thousands of restaurants. How old are you?


RE: No Wonder American beef tastes like rat
By phxfreddy on 5/28/2008 2:31:55 PM , Rating: 1
Its a full sampling of the full spectrum of meats available in the USA.

So you have been to southern Brazil then? I assume since you made the sampling comment that you have otherwise you would not be so confident. Or are you the one with the incomplete sample set ?

Anyway...Its not badmouthing. Its simple fact. If you feed beef something...said beef will taste like the aforesaid.

Just like catfish tastes like mud.


By KristopherKubicki (blog) on 5/28/2008 3:02:01 PM , Rating: 2
Well, you're right about Argentinian beef being top notch, but it's raised and fed essentially the same as it is in the U.S. One of the reasons I like it is because when I travel and they don't have U.S. beef, Argentinian is almost exactly the same.


By elessar1 on 5/29/2008 8:16:03 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
but it's raised and fed essentially the same as it is in the U.S.


No is not...Argentinian cows are feed basically on grass, on enormous flat "Haciendas" (Farms), with almost no hills and lots of water. Hence, the sweet flavor and tenderness of argentinian beef. Here is a link: http://agrolinux.agrositio.com/argentinebeef/home....

Only 5% of argentinian cows are feed by feedlots.

elessar...


By Spuke on 5/28/2008 3:02:30 PM , Rating: 2
I like catfish. Taste is subjective. You like this, I like that and etc. I have been to Brazil and the meat there tasted like meat anywhere else. Some was excellent, some was good, and others were blah.

You said you sampled "the full spectrum of meats available in the USA". What cities/towns? What cuts? Which restaurants?


By callmeroy on 5/28/2008 3:20:09 PM , Rating: 2
I call BS...

Not that I can't believe that my beloved America is being talked bad upon (I mean live in the now its 2008 America is talked bad upon all the time from people across the world)....its that whenever you see a blanket statement by someone like this on the 'net you know they are going to diss anything just because they want to prove their own original point.

You can name a restaurant from anywhere in the US and this guy will tell you "nope theirs is bad too".....just because that's its spin....so its pointless basically because he's full of sh*t.

I've had plenty of perfectly cooked, perfectly tender incredibly delicious steaks and no way were they less then quality.


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