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PROTEIN POWER

CJ Bio America supplies amino acids for livestock feed

-Submitted photo
The Fort Dodge plant is the only CJ Bio America facility in North America that produces amino acids, although the company also has amino-acid production facilities in Brazil, China, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Magic may seem far removed from farming and food production, but it’s as close as the microbes that convert grain into beer and grapes into wine, thanks to the transformative power of fermentation. CJ Bio America west of Fort Dodge has found a unique way to harness the power of this biochemistry to transform an Iowa-grown corn product into feed-grade amino acids to nourish hogs and poultry across North America and beyond.

“CJ Bio America developed a first-of-its-kind technology to create feed-grade, amino-acid granules that flow like water through the production system,” said Luke Palmer, director of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) at CJ Bio America’s Fort Dodge plant, which makes granular, liquid and crystalline amino acids. “The granules are a very user-friendly product we ship to customers across the United States, Canada and Mexico.”

It all starts with Iowa-grown corn. In the fall, the view from Palmer’s second-floor office includes a steady line of semi-trucks hauling corn that was just harvested from area fields to the Cargill processing plant. After the dextrose is extracted at the Cargill plant, this liquid corn sugar is piped next door to CJ Bio America, which is proud to be a title sponsor of the upcoming 2022 Farm News show in Fort Dodge.

The dextrose is fermented and processed into amino acids — the building blocks of proteins. “Mammals don’t produce essential amino acids on their own, so these have to be supplied through the diet,” Palmer said. “The right amino acids allow animals to produce leaner muscle mass. This equates to more meat to help feed a growing global population.”

The CJ Bio America plant, which runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, uses a microbial fermentation process to produce amino acids that nutritionists use to create balanced diets for hogs, chickens and other livestock. The Fort Dodge plant produces lysine and threonine, two of the various amino acids that CJ Bio America supplies to customers.

-Submitted graphic
The CJ BIO AMERICA plant west of Fort Dodge, which is owned by a South Korean firm, has seen steady growth since the facility began production in November 2013.

It takes about 20 hours for the Fort Dodge plant to transform dextrose into amino acids.

“We use dextrose from approximately 15 million bushels of corn a year,” Palmer said. “That’s the equivalent of 75,000 acres of 200-bushel-per-acre corn.”

There’s one thing that CJ Bio America doesn’t produce, however, at its Fort Dodge plant.

“We don’t make ethanol, even though that’s a common misperception,” Palmer said.

Business has grown in the past decade

The CJ Bio America plant, which is owned by a South Korean firm, has seen steady growth since the facility began production in November 2013.

“We had approximately 168 employees here when we opened, and today we have 268 employees, from entry-level team members to finance and logistics specialists to Ph.D. chemical engineers,” said Todd Anderson, external relations coordinator for the plant. “When I talk to students about career opportunities, I encourage them to consider staying in Iowa.”

The Fort Dodge plant is the only CJ Bio America facility in North America that produces amino acids, although the company also has amino-acid production facilities in Brazil, China, Malaysia and Indonesia. Customers appreciate that amino acids from CJ Bio America’s Fort Dodge plant, which has access to rail and truck loading facilities, are available from 25-kilogram bags (about 55 pounds) to metric ton “super sacks.”

Producing these feed-grade amino acids involves a highly technical, green, sustainable production system.

The Fort Dodge team is developing some of most efficient, natural, eco-friendly ways to produce protein, Palmer said. Replacing a portion of livestock’s dietary protein with amino acids cuts the amount of nitrogen the animals excrete into the environment. Using supplemental amino acids like lysine and threonine has allowed U.S. pork producers to routinely decrease their animals’ nitrogen excretion rates, while lowering production costs.

“We also continue to look for ways to operate our plant to benefit the environment, from improved heat and energy conservation to water reclamation,” said Palmer, who noted the Fort Dodge plant is a low-emissions facility. “We’re on track to become one of the first CJ Bio sites in the world to reach many of the company’s ESG goals.”

Giving back to the community

Giving back to the local community is also a major goal for the CJ Bio America team.

“Since we started operating near Fort Dodge, we’ve donated nearly $600,000 to the community, along with 20,000-plus volunteer hours,” Anderson said.

CJ Bio America has supported the Brushy Creek Honor Flight, local youth and agriculture programs, programs like Meals on Wheels, local food pantries that address food insecurity, enhancements to Veterans Memorial Park in Fort Dodge, improvements to the baseball/softball field at the Hydro-Electric Park in Fort Dodge, and many other organizations.

“We try to listen to the needs of the community and help where we can,” Anderson said.

CJ Bio America values these opportunities, including a title sponsorship of the upcoming Farm News winter show, Palmer added. “I’m excited that we continue to grow, not only with our business, but with our ability to positively impact the community. We’ll also continue to look for ways to become more sustainable as we add value to a renewable resource like Iowa-grown corn.”

All this helps enhance rural Iowa, including crop and livestock production, Palmer added.

“Animal agriculture offers a fantastic way to add value to the corn that Iowa farmers grow. We’re proud to play a role in helping people enjoy a more nutritious diet and a higher quality of life.”

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