Claiming Our Share of the Renewable Resource Economy
In early 2008, Memphis Bioworks® Foundation launched its AgBioworks initiative. As a key component of the Memphis Fast Forward initiative, the AgBio focus expands the Foundation's core biosciences mission into the rapidly expanding field commonly called greentech, cleantech or industrial biotechnology.
A three-state initiative encompasses north Mississippi, east Arkansas and west Tennessee, with Memphis as its economic hub. Memphis AgBioworks uniquely positions Memphis to become a world leader in AgBio research, discovery, business development, crop advancement and economic growth. 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.
The AgBio initiative seeks to apply industrial biotechnology to the region's abundant crop and forest biomass resources. 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. The Memphis region's ecosystem, industrial base and climate are well suited to the harvesting of plant cellulose for industrial uses, as opposed to growing ethanol fuel crops. The region is dense in forests that need to be cleaned of overgrowth to remain healthy. The crops already grown in the 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.
Growing AgBio business in the Memphis region will be beneficial to farmers, rural industrial, logistics and ultimately to our planet and ecosystem.