MSRPC Blog

MSGA Director Plays Critical Role at AURI

Obermoller sees value in organizations ability to open soy markets

Q: Where were you born and raised?

A: I am a fourth-generation farmer from Brewster, Minnesota. My first memories are of my mother holding me on the tractor without fenders as we hauled grain from the field.

Once I could walk, I was picking eggs in the morning and collecting rocks from the fi elds in the afternoon. We raised all kinds of animals over the years – ducks, chickens, sheep, cattle and hogs – and ran farrowing and hog finishing operations.

Our current farm – Obermoller Farms – grows about 900 acres of soybeans and corn. My home is just about a mile from where I grew up, and I am one of the lucky few who never held a job that wasn’t on the farm.

Q: When did you first get involved with the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association (MSGA)?

A: I got involved as soon as I could – when the Nobles County Soybean Grower board first organized in the late 1980s – and remain on the board today. A highlight for me was seeing the evolution of the board into the Nobles County Corn and Soybean Grower board rather than creating two separate boards.

Q: What have you enjoyed most in your work at the local level?

A: Serving on the county board allows me to celebrate and support the work our farmers do locally. Also, I am able to bring the resources and connections I’ve made through my statewide and national associations back to my community. Most of all, I enjoy promoting the board’s activities, bringing on new members, connecting with local politicians, supporting the local processing plant and promoting issues at the county fair.

Q: How did you become board chair of the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI)?

A: Well, because the AURI board consists of representatives from the state’s commodity groups, agribusiness, and members of the Minnesota House and Senate agriculture committees, I wanted to represent Minnesota Soy for some time. I had been very familiar with AURI since it was created by the Minnesota Legislature in 1987, and jumped at the opportunity when the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council was looking to appoint a new representative. After a while, I wanted to be even more active so I ran for the chair position. Now I stay educated on the work staff is doing across the state, engage with legislators, promote AURI projects to key stakeholders, and ensure the organization is engaged with and benefitting the agricultural industry and economy.

Q: What is the mission of AURI?

A: The mission of AURI is to foster long-term economic benefit for Minnesota through value-added agricultural products. What this means is AURI works to increase the value of Minnesota agricultural by developing new uses, products and revenue streams for farmers through applied research, innovation networks and hands-on scientific assistance. Really, AURI is about bringing food and agricultural innovation ideas to reality with the latest technologies.

Q: What AURI project has been particularly interesting to you as a soybean farmer?

A: I always tell folks that my favorite project is the next big dream our clients challenge us with.

A couple of AURI’s most exciting recent projects that come to mind are a soy-based road preservation product for asphalt roads, and EarthClean, a fire retardant using corn starch and soybean oil.

My all-time favorite project was when AURI helped bring Minnesota Soybean Processors to southwest Minnesota. An AURI grant helped get the plant up and running, but more than that, the feasibility studies it conducted ensured the investment was wise and added great value coming from a third party.

Q: What should Minnesota’s soybean farmers know about AURI?

A: It is so impressive how AURI technical and project staff are able to take an idea and move it forward. Soybean farmers should know that AURI is a partner to make their lives better by finding new uses for their soybeans to improve rural Minnesota opportunities through the application of new technologies.

Q: How have Minnesota Soybean and AURI been working together recently?

A: It’s rare to find a project we aren’t working together on across the spectrum of food, coproducts, biobased products and renewable energy. Right now, there is a collaboration between the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council and AURI on the advancement of a fire retardant that is currently under review for fighting forest fires. There are also various feeding trials in aquaculture and one with a higher protein meal for baby pigs. Additionally, MSGA often uses AURI research when meeting with elected officials or when attending national meetings and conferences, like various food nutrition conferences or American Soybean Association and United Soybean Board meetings.

Q: What does the future hold for AURI?

A: AURI is always looking for new uses for the coproducts coming out of the processing plants in rural Minnesota to improve profitability. Specifically, AURI is looking into the perennial problem of funding for new startups, and what potential might exist for more food and agriculture investment by angel investors and venture capital.

Fortunately, our agricultural economy is strong in Minnesota, our farmers and entrepreneurs are hardworking, and new technologies are providing new and exciting opportunities for innovation. The future collaboration between AURI and Minnesota Soy is bright.

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