AURI assistance benefits two local companies [UPDATED]Published 6:22am Monday, January 7, 2013 Updated 8:25am Monday, January 7, 2013
If you have an idea or need assistance in the development of agriculturally-based product, Minnesota’s Agricultural Utilization and Research Institute (AURI) may be able to help. AURI representatives were in Fergus Falls Friday reviewing and sharing the success of two companies they have supported with special projects — Vector Windows and Nots!
Teresa Spaeth, AURI executive director explained how AURI efforts result in tangible economic benefits for our communities to tour participants, including Fergus Falls Mayor Hal Leland, Toni Merdan from U.S. Representative Collin Peterson’s office, State Representative Bud Nornes, Fergus Falls Economic Improvement Commission Executive Director, Harold Stanislawski, and local media.
“Through science and technology, we develop new uses for agriculture commodities and partner with businesses and entrepreneurs to bring ideas to reality,” said Spaeth. “Through our work, we expand both markets and product viability.”
Vector Windows produces custom windows for customers across eight states, and employs 74 people in their Fergus Falls manufacturing facility. Vector approached AURI because they wanted to identify methods or processes that improve the overall energy efficiency of their windows as well as the “green aspects” of their windows.
“By using a bio-renewable soy-based foam we were able to improve the energy rating in our windows by 10 percent,” said Jeff Ackerson, President, CEO and co-owner of Vector Windows. “Not only did we want to differentiate ourselves with a higher performing product, using sustainable materials also supports farmers in our market region throughout the upper Midwest.”
AURI staff helped introduce Vector Windows staff to the concept of soy-based polyoil insulation, which provides an improved insulating material in their window frames. They also connected Vector to the soy foam manufacturer and equipment provider, and provided financial assistance for testing to ensure LEED compliance for windows.
The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, is a certification designed by the United States Green Building Council to rate the environmental impact and performance of a building. The resulting change has allowed Vector to claim its windows meet the new R-5 quality grade — the most stringent energy efficiency grade.
“The initial cost of materials is a little higher, but we expect to gain that back in market value and the overall benefit of using a bio-renewable material,” said Ackerson.
In addition to AURI focusing on biobased products, they also work with renewable energy projects, coproducts- or re-using agricultural waste, and food.
Entrepreneur Ron Fuglie, who has a son with peanut allergies, wanted to create a non-nut snack that would appeal to those with nut allergies and their families.
AURI scientist Charan Wadhawan helped with the Nots! product development and created a nutritional label with minimal ingredients.
“I don’t have a food production background, and AURI provided expert technical help,” said Fuglie. “They also provided cost-share assistance to help produce a UPC label.”
AURI Executive Director Teresa Spaeth explained that cost-share works like a reimbursement grant, with participants meeting certain milestones before applying for the next cost-share.
Fuglie says AURI is part of the reason Nots! is ready to expand, moving from rented space in PioneerCare’s commercial kitchen to a new build out space at the Business Development Center on the west side of town.
Ackerson and Fuglie both credit Harold Stanislawski with putting them in touch with AURI.
“Harold really understands agriculture, and has a good handle on business resources in the community,” said Ackerson.
AURI is a unique resource to Minnesota businesses looking to create more value for the state’s agricultural products.
“Through our vision, we not only help shape, but define the future of agriculture,” said Spaeth.