On the biggest challenge…

“In my opinion, the biggest challenge currently is finding inexpensive feedstocks that contain simple sugars. We need to increase the biomass yields, growing new varieties and materials, optimizing the amount of sugar and fiber in different plants.

“There’s a lot of work still to do before biorefineries can be built in a big way.”  

On other job responsibilities…

“Part of our job is to work with the local sugar industry. That’s a daily routine – I’ve just finished visiting with two sugar mills this morning. The Audubon Sugar Institute provides technical support for both the growers and processors of sugar.

“Another thing we do is to try and diversify options for growers and prepare for the future. We’re looking for the opportunities where they can supplement values of what they’re already growing. We’re not trying to say ‘stop planting this and try something else.’

“Instead, we’re looking at adding value to the existing agricultural infrastructure.”

More on the grant…

“We have 16 partners from eight states in industry and academia and one USDA lab. The impetus is to create a mini-biorefinery where we’ll be able to grow (feedstock) crops next door and process them fresh. We’ll evaluate the materials used by the different partners.

“It will also be used as a training center for Extension and Education. That’s important and we feel we’ll be positioned to allow out-of-state people to take advantage of that training. The purpose of the USDA grant isn’t just for Louisiana but for the whole South and Southeast.”