A group of Peoria County farmers participated in a three-day Iowa AgriBusiness tour last month. The purpose of the tour was to gain knowledge in ag manufacturing, processing and research.
The first stop was at Kinze Manufacturing in Williamsburg. Kinze makes planters and grain auger wagons. While we were on the tour, employees were busy making parts and assembling 12-row planters.
Jon Kinzenbaw, the company’s owner and president, founded the business in 1965 as a welding, repair and custom metal fabrication shop. His farm background and inventiveness led him to build several custom machines for area farmers. Kinzenbaw currently uses his own 2,500-acre farm as a testing area for the new designs Kinze Manufacturing develops. Today, Kinze is known for their highly accurate, mechanical finger pick-up meters on their planters, high flotation grain auger wagons, and their state-of-the-art powder paint system.
After Kinze, our group made a 15-mile trip north to Blairstown where we toured an ethanol processing facility. There was a definite interest in their tour with the proposed new ethanol processor near Canton. The Blairstown facility began operation Thanksgiving Day in 1999. They have 15 employees and use 2 million bushels of corn annually to make 5 million gallons of ethanol. The proposed plant for Canton will use 12 million bushels of corn—much more than the one in Blairstown.
The next morning we went to Pioneer Seed in Johnston, just north of Des Moines. Pioneer has been a leader in developing seed corn and soybeans for farmers. A new technology in the industry is developing seed resistant to certain insects. Specifically, Bt seed, which basically means the seed has certain genetics that will prevent damage to the growing corn plant from the European Corn Borer. Farmers lose millions of dollars each year to lost yields caused by this corn borer. A researcher gave our group hands-on experience at testing for Bt genetics in corn seedlings.
In the afternoon, we toured Kemin Industries in Des Moines. They are a worldwide company in the nutraceutical business—medicines, vitamins, and minerals derived from natural products, such as plants. This was truly a science-based stop. For instance, Kemin was using marigold flowers as an ingredient in two of their products. One use of marigold flowers is in an extract known as Lutein, a natural antioxidant that research shows helps prevent mascular degeneration in the human eye.
Another interesting nutraceutical still in the development stage at Kemin is Biofec. This product is made from potato skins, which have a protein that’s a protease inhibitor. This inhibitor blocks an enzyme that gives humans an appetite. So essentially, this is a product to help people lose weight, as you feel full before you normally would.
As all of us witnessed on this three-day tour, there are some exciting things happening in the field of agriculture. Who knows where scientists will find a cure for diseases such as cancer—it may be from a weed in your own backyard. IBI