The nation’s top designer of ethanol plants is rolling out new technology to make triple use of the corn kernel: as fuel for our vehicles, feed for livestock and food for people. Chris Mitchell, spokesman for Kansas-based I-C-M Incorporated, says it’ll boost revenue for ethanol plants but won’t require them to use more corn.
“Dry fractionation is the first step in the process that will take the existing ethanol plants today and put them on a platform where they’re able to produce both a food and fuel,” Mitchell says. The company has helped to develop about a hundred ethanol plants nationwide, including 12 in Nebraska, the nation’s number-three producer of the corn-based fuel.
Mitchell says existing plants could be retrofitted for the new technology. “Dry fractionation itself will separate the corn into three components, germ, endosperm and bran,” Mitchell says. “The endosperm will be the tool for getting ethanol made. The germ will allow us to break down proteins and oils that will go into human consumption.” The remainder can be used for livestock feed. In traditional ethanol plants, only about five-percent of the corn is used for human consumption, but Mitchell says the new process could significantly raise that number.
He says the technology will be at a food-grade facility where they’ll be able to get into markets like food-grade corn oil and a protein, similar to egg whites, that can be used in all sorts of foods, including dairy products like ice cream, whipped cream, puddings and custards, and protein mixes. He says I-C-M has a plant in St. Joseph, Missouri, that’s already been using the technology for a year — and it’s now ready to roll out to other plants.
“It’s a process we’re calling total kernel optimization. We’re able to use all parts of the kernel,” Mitchell says. “It’ll benefit the plants by income diversification. They’ll have revenue streams from new markets that they’ve not had in the past and give them some economic sustainability as we go into the future.”