By Tony Brown
Maryville Daily Forum
The newly formed Missouri BioProduct Producers Group of Burlington Junction has been awarded a $77,220 grant through the Missouri Department of Agriculture to assist in development of a feedstock supply operation that would provide raw material to a manufacturing facility now under development in northern Nodaway County.
According to a department release, the funding comes from the Missouri Value-Added Grant Program, which provides seed money for projects that advance development of Missouri agricultural products in ways that enhance economic growth in rural communities.
The producers group is working with California-based ChloroFill LLC, which plans to use hybridized sorghum as a component in the production of plywood-like construction panels.
Lee Langerock of Nodaway County Economic Development said the grant will be used to study the feasibility of creating a new business that would act as a conduit between farmers growing the sorghum and ChloroFill.
The set-up, she said, could eventually include a facility that would process raw sorghum into a production-ready form before delivering it to Chlorofill’s plant on Highway 71 north of Burlington Junction.
ChloroFill’s president and CEO, Michael Hurst, publicly announced plans to build the panel manufacturing facility last October during a breakfast gathering attended by numerous elected officials and members of the local business and agricultural communities.
Since then, the company has constructed a 5,400-square-foot building, which Langerock said has been tooled up sufficiently to complete production of sample panels for evaluation by potential customers. Sorghum for the test panels was grown on a 90-acre plot at Northwest Missouri State University’s R.T. Wright Farm.
Langerock said the company has yet to begin hiring but has made substantial progress toward the start of commercial production, which will require seven to 10 employees.
Anticipated growth, she said, means the plant could provide production and materials handling jobs for three times that many people in about two years.
The plant is to manufacture a product trade-named DurahForm, which consists of processed sorghum stalks fused together using a protein binder.
Produced in sheets, DurahForm is similar to high-grade plywood made from bamboo or exotic hardwoods but is manufactured without using formaldehyde, a toxic compound that has been linked to a number of health concerns, including cancer.
In announcing the start-up last year, Hurst said DurahForm applications include counter tops, wall and ceiling coverings, furniture, cabinetry, wainscoting, doors and flooring.
According to the state Agriculture Department, the producer’s group grant was one of 12 awarded statewide that ranged from $17,000 to $198,000, for a total of $808,838.
The grants are funded from the sale of tax credits and can be used for business planning purposes, such as feasibility studies and marketing plans. The maximum individual grant is $200,000 with a required 10 percent local cash match, which in the case of Missouri BioProduct Producers was paid by Nodaway County Economic Development.