Vilsack tours MBI International in Lansing, Mich.

By Erin Voegele | August 29, 2011

Agricultural Secretary Tom Vislack and Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, toured Lansing, Mich.-based MBI International Aug. 22. According to the USDA, the visit aimed to highlight the Obama Administration’s efforts to support the creation and production of biobased products in order to create jobs, add value to agricultural commodities, and reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil.

MBI International is a nonprofit organization that is a resource for the bioeconomy, said the organization’s Chief Business Officer David Jones. “We don’t do basic research, we let the universities do that,” he said. “What we do is what we call de-risking and scale-up of biobased technologies. We do that next stage of development after the research has been completed.” That can include either bench-scale or pilot-scale activities. “We have a full pilot facility where we can do biomass processing, and then pretreatment technologies and fermentation,” Jones added.

Jones describes MBI International as a sort of middle entity between a university and the corporate sector. “We feel like we are that bridge between universities and corporate clients,” he said, noting that approximately half of MBI International’s clients are universities, and the other half are corporate.

During his tour, Jones said Vilsack was able to engage with the organization’s technical group. “We have him a tour of our microbiology laboratory, our fermentation room where we develop the new fermentation processes, and he had a chance to go into our pilot plant and actually see the pretreatment technology equipment,” Jones said.

“Biobased products are not only good for the environment, they’re creating jobs here in Michigan and across the country,” said Vilsack.  “In Michigan alone, dozens of companies are producing a wide range of new items. Nationwide, this rapidly-growing initiative is already responsible for an estimated over 100,000 jobs.”