Soon Kansas farmers might have another way of making money off their corn crop
Corn is no longer just a food commodity. One Texas-based company takes crop remnants and builds surfboards, coffee tables and pallets with its byproduct.
The Hutchinson/Reno County Chamber of Commerce brought in Lane Segerstrom, the founder and CEO of CornBoard Manufacturing, to speak about his product, which takes corn stover cover – husks, stalks, leaves and cobs - and turns it into CornBoard.
Segerstrom told the chamber group that he is hoping to build a factory in Hutchinson. Once he builds this manufacturing facility in Central Kansas, he plans to build a couple of others throughout the Sunflower State.
“We have a lot of things that check our boxes for Kansas,” Segerstrom said. “Farmers are looking for additional revenue streams, and we see an incredible opportunity to partner with them.”
Because more and more farmers in Kansas are going no-till, there is more of this byproduct left on the fields. But because these farmers want to keep their land covered to prevent erosion and replenish the soil, they would only sell 20% of this already-harvested crop to CornBoard.
The board is made by sifting the biomass residue into a resin. After sifting, it is bonded under heat and pressure. Each board can withstand one thousand tons of pressure.
Segerstrom, a fifth-generation farmer from Iowa, understands the plight of the farmer. He wants to make sure that farmers get a long-term contract, not relying on the market to continually change.
The organization would take out the stover and “give the farmer a check,” Segerstrom said. This business model uses both small and large farmers.
Making pallets from corn
CornBoard is continually doing research and development in Texas but recently built a manufacturing plant in Iowa - where they are manufacturing pallets.
Because the pallet business is largely made up of wooden pallets, Segerstrom sees this item as the anchor for his business model. According to Segerstrom, a major clothing manufacturer has already signed onto this project and he has spoken with other industry leaders, including Cargill.
"Over a million acres of forest gets taken down each year to make pallets,” Segerstrom said. “In 2019, there were 2.6 billion pallets in circulation in the U.S.”
By transferring from wooden to CornBoard pallets, businesses will decrease the need for wood and their carbon imprint. If one of these boards needs to be recycled, it can be reground and made into a new pallet – keeping all CornBoard pallets out of landfills.
Segerstrom said his company’s model is to "start slow to go fast." After years of research and development, the company is ready to expand. To do this, Segerstrom needs to make sure the residents in the area he locates a manufacturing facility in, including the location's farmers, are behind the project.
“It demonstrates buy-in from the local community,” said Debra Teufel, the president and CEO of the Hutchinson/Reno County Chamber of Commerce.
In addition to sustainability, Segerstrom said within four years, he hopes to have 15 facilities built and operating - mainly in the midwest. Each plant will have an attached silo-looking building, complete with a yellow roof – to represent corn.
"We think that we can seed the market with finished product on the ground in the Hutchinson area,” Segerstrom said. "This part of the country has plenty of corn that we can convert into CornBoard."
Along with pallets, the plants can manufacture flooring, insulated house boards and cabinets.
“There are some potential great opportunities to put CornBoard in the market in Kansas,” Segerstrom said. “It’s going to be a big win to have quality manufacturing in rural America.”