AgBioworks, an initiative of the Memphis Bioworks Foundation, and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture are sponsoring an alternative crops conference at the Fogelman Executive Conference Center at the University of Memphis, Nov. 12-13, 2008. Registration begins at 12:30 on Nov. 12.

The program, titled “Planting Seeds for the Future: The West Tennessee Alternative Crops Conference,” will explore the impact of non-traditional crops on the bioeconomy of the Mid-South.

The two day conference will bring together farmers, agriculture and bio-products experts, technology developers, educators, researchers, government officials and ag-bio entrepreneurs. The program will look at high-value food, health and industrial applications for new crops, all with a focus on how businesses can capitalize on the variety of alternative crops in today’s changing agriculture and energy landscape. Emphasis will be placed on non-traditional crops, their uses, the challenges farmers face in growing and harvesting as well as transporting crops for processing or market.

“We are at the cusp of a transition from an oil-based economy to a bio-based economy,” said Steven J. Bares, executive director, Memphis Bioworks Foundation. “We have the land, knowledgeable farmers, low-cost logistics and a very successful chemical industry that positions the region to be a leader in this emerging economy.”

The conference will feature more than 20 speakers including Gordon Surgeoner, president of Ontario AgriFood Technologies; Kelly Tiller, director of external operations for the Office of Bioenergy Programs at the University of Tennessee; and Andrew Hebard, president and CEO of Technology Crops International. Alan Weber, economic consultant for Thomas Jefferson Agricultural Institute, will present the latest information on the emerging bioeconomy.

Topics covered at the conference will include new crops research in the region, new processing opportunities, identity preservation, niche crops, and many types of biobased products such as automotive biocomposites and biobased chemicals. Among the session opportunities for participants will be discussions about commercialization of oilseed, biomass, fiber and specialty crops including canola, camelina, kenaf, miscanthus, switchgrass, sweet sorghum, high erucic acid rape seed, and many others.

“We are connecting growers, processors and end users in a new way,” said Peter Nelson, AgBioworks director. “Our goal is to build an economic development strategy that leverages all of the inherent advantages of the Mid-South region.”

Information on registration or exhibit space for vendors can be obtained at www.agbioworks.org/newcropsconference. Questions may be directed to (901) 448-1724.