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Consider Corn Challenge IV Winners Bring Forward the Next Generation of Biobased Materials

At yesterday’s Advanced Bioeconomy Leadership 2023 Conference in San Francisco, Calif., the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) announced the winners of the Consider Corn Challenge IV. Four winners were chosen, each with a unique way to improve a product or process using feed corn to produce biobased materials.

“The Consider Corn Challenge fosters innovative collaborations between corn farmers and industry, which paves the way for new products, chemicals and applications. This year’s winners have continued to demonstrate corn’s adaptability,” said NCGA’s Director of Market Development Sarah McKay. “And corn’s unique versatility can be witnessed in the showcase of their diverse approaches and applications. This contest continues to highlight the fact that U.S. corn is an extremely flexible feedstock suited for biobased products.”

The four winners for the Consider Corn Challenge IV are Bluestem Biosciences Inc., based out of Omaha, Neb.; Pennsylvania State University, located in the state’s University City; Nexceris, headquartered in Lewis Center, Ohio; and Maizly, whose U.S. office is located in Phoenix, Ariz.

Bluestem Biosciences, Inc. has developed novel yeast biology for the sustainable anaerobic bio-production of 3-Hydroxypropionic acid (3-HP), a chemical intermediate for the acrylates chemical family, a $25B total addressable market. This strategic platform molecule serves a variety of consumer end markets, like personal care products, paints and coatings. Bluestem will leverage its novel yeast biology through the retrofit of underutilized existing shuttered ethanol production facilities across the U.S. Bluestem’s anaerobic biology is intended to mimic ethanol production, creating numerous economic benefits while supporting the rural Midwest bioeconomy and agricultural communities. Additionally, Bluestem’s technology reduces dependence on petroleum for feedstock currently used in chemical production and relies on corn as the primary feedstock, while reshoring supply chains back to the United States.

Pennsylvania State University’s technology utilizes both corn starch and corn oil for applications in energy storage in lithium batteries. Corn starch will be evaluated for conversion into both hard and soft carbons; corn oil will be evaluated for conversion into a soft carbon. The carbon materials will be characterized for structure by a suite of material characterization methods, including transmission electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction, and Raman spectroscopy.

Nexceris has developed a new sugar-to-chemicals process that uses renewable dextrose to make industrial chemicals, instead of oil or gas, and can cut CO2 emissions by greater than 85%. Sugar2X uses state-of-the-art reactors and a new catalyst design to operate continuously on a dextrose, a domestic, renewable feedstock, with established rail transport, and clean H2 from electricity. The technology also strongly benefits American farmers and rural communities by converting sugars to renewable chemical products that can be cost-competitive with existing fossil-based processes, allowing market forces to improve commodity corn prices and demand that drives this value stream.

Maizly has developed the world’s first corn-based milk alternative, called Maizly Original.
Not only does Maizly Original look like dairy milk, but it has a similar mouthfeel to dairy milk
and a complementary taste profile so as not to impact the flavor of the underlying beverage or cereal. Not only can Maizly Original froth for your cappuccino and white your tea or coffee, but it is also perfect for baking with. Maizly Original contains less sugar yet more calcium, as well as vitamins A, D and E, and added chickpea protein. Being lactose-, gluten-, and allergen-free, Maizly Original is “Available to All.”

“Finding new uses for corn is a key priority for NCGA,” said Ohio farmer and Market Development Action Team Vice Chair Dennis Vennekotter.  “The Consider Corn Challenge provides a unique opportunity to harness the potential of corn as a versatile, sustainable feedstock. It not only showcases the ingenuity of participants but also fosters vital collaborations between industry and corn producers, paving the way for innovative, market-driven solutions.”

The total prize pool for the fourth iteration of the contest was U.S. $250,000. Each of the four winners received $62,500.

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