Written by: Megan Myers
May 9, 2016
Sen. Roy Blunt stopped by the Missouri Plant Science Center in Mexico Thursday to learn about the biocoal being developed by Enginuity and to speak about the region’s opportunities for leadership in several agricultural endeavors.
Enginuity co-founders Nancy and Bob Heimann welcomed the senator and many guests from the community, and spoke on the history of the plant, from its humble beginnings inside a garage, to its current partnership with Ameren Missouri to develop a biocoal that can be co-fired alongside coal at Ameren power plants.
The senator also got a tour of Enginuity’s facility, where he said he was impressed with the variety of biofuel sources Enginuity is capable of harnessing to make biocoal. “I’ve been to this facility and to Mexico lots of times to see what they’re doing,” Blunt said. “There are all kinds of waste products, like the wood that lays on the ground in forests and woodlands all over Missouri and all over the county.”
Following the tour, Blunt spoke to the group about how how the biocoal processing plant and local producers are uniquely positioned to help Missouri’s struggling coal industry to thrive once again.”
“Nobody is better positioned than we are for the challenge and the opportunity,” he said. “The biggest piece of contiguous agricultural land in the world is the Mississippi River Valley. The best farmers and ranchers in the world are here. The best ag research institutions, public and private, are here. And we have a huge transportation advantage.
“We’re in a moment where we need to decide how much of that we’re going to wrap our arms around and grab, or how much we’re willing to see go somewhere else.”
The senator also talked about the role local producers are going to play in solving the growing global demand for fresh, healthy food.
“In about 35-40 years, world food demand will be double what it is today. Part of it is the significant population growth that is almost unavoidable. The other part is, once people get the better stuff they really don’t want to go back to the not-so-good food again. People want to continue to have more choices.
He said this increased demand presents a challenge to farmers because it will not necessarily be accompanied by an increase in farmable land.
“By 2015, we’ll have to grow twice as much food on the same acres of land. What you do with that land, and figuring out how to use everything that’s on it, becomes really important.”
For one example of how local farmers can become more efficient, Blunt called on David Vogt, chairman of East Central Agricultural Producers, to explain how practices like removing corn stover from a field can not only help them reap the rewards of an otherwise wasted byproduct, but can also save money and keep fields healthier.
The senator said the challenge for Enginuity and other agricultural enterprises is figuring out how to minimize inputs and maximize outputs in order to be more competitive.
“What you’re doing here is just constantly looking for a better product,” he said. “It’s figuring out what people are going to want, and how you can get it to them more competitively than anybody else could. And I think to a great extent that was always the vision for this facility.”