Memphis Area Poised to be AgBio World Leader

This month, Memphis Bioworks Foundation announced the creation of a dedicated AgBio initiative for our region. This three state initiative will include north Mississippi, east Arkansas and west Tennessee, with Memphis as its economic hub and uniquely positions Memphis to become a world leader in AgBio research, discovery, business development, crop advancement and economic growth.

As we have discovered in our biomedical industry in Memphis, aggressive growth depends on a strong foundation. The competitive advantages for AgBio are already in place in Memphis and associated with the Mississippi Delta – inbound/outbound logistics, distribution expertise, superior agricultural land, a diverse crop base, quality raw material sources, research infrastructure, experienced farmers, chemical manufacturing capacity and an abundant forestry base offer just such a foundation.

AgBio refers to the development of alternative energy and biobased products from living sources. The products that can be derived replace petroleum and other extracted minerals with renewable sources. Biobased products include biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel; biobased plastics; and many other chemicals, including cleaning products, automotive components, and even thousands of consumer products ranging from high fashion clothing to industrial plastics. It is important to note that our initiative is not something that enters the debate about food or fuel. Our ecosystem, our industrial base and our climate are much better suited to the harvesting of plant cellulose for industrial uses than for growing ethanol fuel crops. Our region is dense in forests that need to be cleaned of overgrowth to remain healthy. The crops already grown in our region – rice and grasses in particular – produce an abundance of stalk waste after harvest. This alone presents an excellent source of cellulose product to develop new products and opportunities for economic growth.

Creating a vision for AgBio leadership and excellence, and developing the business, education and research initiatives necessary to expand our presence in AgBio is a key part of the Foundation’s execution of the community-wide Fast Forward initiatives. We do not take this expansion of the Foundation’s core biosciences mission lightly. As we have done in our biomedical initiatives, we strive to become a major catalyst in organizing and bringing together the community assets to facilitate the development of new business, jobs and intellectual expertise to benefit the region.

As we have done before, we believe in collaborating with established experts for leadership and guidance in the AgBio field. In this case, we have partnered with BioDimensions, a team of industry experts with a wealth of contacts and respect in the critical areas of AgBio that will jump start this important initiative.

The focus on AgBio could not come at a more critical time, as the global market world is beginning to realize that it must change from a fossil fuel economy to a biobased renewable resource economy is inevitable. If we all work together and focus our efforts, Memphis will emerge as an AgBio leader in this new economy. Every part of our region; agricultural, industrial, financial and educational will benefit from that success.

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