Sowing Seeds For The Ag Industry

Despite slow growth predictions, the agriculture industry is seeing new technologies move agribusiness forward.

MODERNIZING AGRIBUSINESS INDUSTRY IN LOUISIANA

Louisiana’s agribusiness industry is driven by 14 million acres of forestland, a network of 30,000 farms, and an entrepreneurial spirit that is fueling the modernization of America’s oldest economic sector.

The state’s fertile lands make it a national leader for rice and sugar crops. It also provides a base for three of the largest wood products companies in the world, whose waste product supports Louisiana’s emerging biomass supply chain. Supporting it all is a logistical network powered by Louisiana’s central U.S. location and extensive port system, providing access to America’s heartland as well as worldwide markets through the Gulf of Mexico.

Boasting six interstate highways, six Class I railroads, and six deep-water ports, Louisiana provides a crucial food supply and distribution role. The state’s port system handles approximately 60% of all raw grain exports in the U.S.

Agribusiness
Timber is a leading agriculture industry sector in Louisiana and is used in products from manufactured wood products to pellets used for producing lower-carbon renewable energy. (Photo: LaSalle Lumber)

 

A vast generational workforce, the byproduct of Louisiana’s rich agricultural history, is supplemented by higher education programs to ensure agribusiness companies have access to a highly-skilled labor pool. Louisiana State University is one of the few land-grant, sea-grant, and space-grant universities in the nation.

Community and technical college programs, coupled with research university curricula, provide Louisiana’s agribusiness workforce with strong skills and expertise.  Louisiana is the second-largest producer of sugar in the country, and a leading producer of timber. Both sectors are emblematic of agricultural ingenuity in the state.

While dishing out nearly two million short tons from its 2021-22 harvest, sugarcane has also become a valuable commodity for the state’s continued embrace of renewable energy. Delta Biofuel is investing $100 million toward an Iberia Parish facility that will be the first of its kind in North America for its use of bagasse. A byproduct of sugarcane production, bagasse will manufacture biomass fuel pellets used in power generation on a commercial scale.

The state’s timber industry is also part of the renewable energy wave, as companies like UK-based Drax operate their own biomass wood pellet facilities. Drax, with two plants in the northeast region of the state, ships wood pellets from the Port of Greater Baton Rouge to the United Kingdom, where they are used for producing lower-carbon renewable energy. Combined, the Louisiana facilities produce roughly 925,000 tons of biomass per year, which helps Drax generate 12% of the U.K.’s electricity.

Meanwhile, Origin Materials, a carbon-negative materials company committed to leading the global transition to sustainable materials, recently announced plans for an investment of at least $750 million to develop a plant-based polyethylene terephthalate (PET) facility. Sourced from locally supplied sustainable wood residue, Origin’s PET is used in packaging, textiles, apparel, and other applications.

Hydrothermal carbon, which can be used in fuel pellets, also will be produced at the site. Made with renewable feedstocks, Origin’s patented technology platform is designed to reduce the carbon emitted during the production of widely used products ranging from food and beverage containers to parts for the automotive industry.

Visit www.opportunitylouisiana.gov for more information.

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