Member Spotlights


Otter Tail Power Company

What industry/sector do you identify with? Energy

Number of employees in Minnesota: Around 400 employees in MN.

What about your organization’s work are you most proud of? Our company has served electric customers in western MN and eastern ND/SD for more than 100 years. About twenty years ago, we diversified as Otter Tail Corporation and we now include companies engaged in manufacturing precision metal products, as well as plastics.

Please highlight key trends affecting your industry: 
1. “Green” is in.
2.”Less is more”

Talk about the key opportunities and challenges facing your business over the next 5 years: Major challenge: Keeping costs down for electric customers as environmental regulations drive new investments.

Northern Crops Institute

What industry/sector do you identify with? International Market Development

Number of employees in Minnesota: The NCI has 12 employees that include food and feed scientists. We are located on the campus of North Dakota State University in Fargo, ND.

What about your organization’s work are you most proud of? The NCI’s mission is to promote northern grown crops. We do this by hosting trade teams from around the world who visit here to learn about how to utilize our crops in their food and feed products. To date we have had visitors from approximately 140 countries. We are most proud of the four-state collaborative effort. The North Dakota and South Dakota legislatures, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, and the producer checkoffs including the soybean, corn, wheat, dry bean, barley, pulses, and sunflower research and promotion councils from Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana all provide funding to this effort.

Please highlight key trends affecting your industry: The world market is becoming increasingly competitive with customers demanding high quality crops with very specific functional characteristics. Crop breeders, both public and private, strive for varieties delivering the highest end-use value products without sacrificing yields for the farmer. Food companies are continuing to discover new and novel ways of incorporating crops into their food and feed products. This region grows some of the highest quality crops in the world and is responding to those needs but must still compete against price.

Talk about the key opportunities and challenges facing your business over the next 5 years: Middle incomes continue to increase in Southeast Asia, Subcontinent Asia, and China and those consumers are demanding more protein through milk, meat and eggs in their diets. Our region is ideally situated with advantages in transportation, climate and quality crops, and variety of crops to fill those markets. This northern region leads the nation in the production of about 14 crops.


Minnesota State Fair Foundation

What industry/sector do you identify with? Nonprofit foundation supporting Minnesota State Fair programs in art, agriculture, education, history and environment

Number of employees in Minnesota: 5 staff and 23 Board Members

What about your organization’s work are you most proud of? The Minnesota State Fair Foundation helps the State Fair with program development and project funds. We focus on five program areas: agriculture, art, history, environment and education. We are most proud of our support for agriculture at the State Fair, including development of AgStar Arena, the Moo Booth, the CHS Miracle of Birth and FFA Center and funding for the Supreme Awards in livestock shows. Agriculture and education are at the very heart of the State Fair which has a history that is older than the State of Minnesota. Every county in Minnesota is represented in State Fair 4-H and FFA programs, and annually 1.8 million people attend the State Fair. The State Fair receives no government appropriations and it is independently funded, including support from the Minnesota State Fair Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and the generosity of our agricultural and other donor partners.

Please highlight key trends affecting your industry: Given the role that the State Fair has in consumer education and the pace of progress in our agricultural industries, it is a priority to continue connecting the agribusiness community with consumers by way of the State Fair. Together we can provide relevant, consumer-based education that is of interest to the industry and all.

Talk about the key opportunities and challenges facing your business over the next 5 years: The State Fair Foundation was created in 2002 for this purpose: help preserve and improve State Fair buildings, grounds and educational programs. The State Fair and Foundation have limited resources to maintain the 320 acres, preserve 140 structures, sustain traditions and expand educational programming. We have more opportunities than the funds to accomplish those opportunities. We will continue to strive for philanthropic connections in the community that help the State Fair be a mirror of Minnesota greatness in everything from art to agriculture.

Minnesota Agricultural Education Leadership Council

What industry/sector do you identify with? Government/Education

Number of employees in Minnesota: 2 employees, 17-member board

What about your organization’s work are you most proud of? Minnesota Agricultural Education Leadership Council (MAELC) is a 17-member legislative council created in 1997 to promote and expand agricultural education opportunities in Minnesota. It’s an umbrella organization for agricultural educa­tion, focusing on strengthening local programs at the secondary, post-secondary and farm business manage­ment levels. MAELC takes the lead on helping to develop new strategies to improve agricultural education in the state and region. To date, MAELC has awarded nearly $8 million in grants, scholarships, and special project funding.

Please highlight key trends affecting your industry: Education is an evolving paradigm. MAELC works hard to involve all stakehold­ers in expanding our curriculum and scope of activities, while trying to offer more inclusive programs across the state to work with new and diverse populations. We hope to meet the increasing demand for all students in Minnesota, both in urban and rural areas, to access agricultural, food and natural resource education programs. The trend of people being interested and needed in agriculture has not waned and influences our work to provide students with hands-on experiences in and outside of the classroom with the ultimate goal of encouraging the pursuit of an agricultural career.

Talk about the key opportunities and challenges facing your business over the next 5 years: Similar to states across the nation, Minnesota is facing a shortage of agricultural educators.  However, the gap between supply and demand is not simply an indication of the number of individuals entering the profession. In Minnesota, the shortage is exacerbated by an increasing demand for high school agricultural education programs. To accommodate heightened interest, many school districts are investing in the development of new programs. Additionally, some single-teacher programs have expanded with the addition of a second or third teacher. To address the agriculture teacher shortage within our state, MAELC is chairing our State Teach Ag Results (STAR) committee, a national pilot program focused on agriculture teacher recruitment and retention strategies.

Lockton Companies

What industry/sector do you identify with? Professional Services/Insurance/Risk Management

Number of employees in Minnesota: 60

What about your organization’s work are you most proud of? We are most proud of our custom tailored insurance capabilities for Clients.  We know each client is different and has a different appetite for insurance risk and our teams address this by tailoring our service offerings to fit their needs.  We remain the largest privately owned insurance broker in the world and that is because of three things: 1) Lockton remains true to our founders’ vision. 2) We give back to the communities we work in. 3) Our Clients and our Associates come first.  Lockton is invested and committed to growing and strengthening the agricultural industry in Minnesota and across the country.

Please highlight key trends affecting your industry: Inside the industry, we are seeing extensive consolidation of the insurance carriers.  What this means to our Clients varies across the board depending on appetite, risk, and geography.  Over the next few years we expect to see more consolidation as well as more strategic lines of coverage by insurance carriers.  For instance, AIG recently announced they will not write standalone pollution coverage.  This doesn’t signal a tightening of the market but rather the opposite.  The same can be said about newer coverages like cyber, R&W, and many more.

Talk about the key opportunities and challenges facing your business over the next 5 years: The insurance industry is seeing a shift in the scope of engagement and level of consultation being requested from insurance professionals.  We are moving from providing transactional based insurance policies towards providing holistic solutions to a myriad of problems our clients face.  Integrated products addressing employer’s human capital framework is one such example.  Our opportunity is to continue to invest in industry and business acumen in order to provide a wider variety of guidance and advice, which will give our clients a competitive advantage by reducing their enterprise risk, and embracing the ability to take risk when appropriate.


Irrigation Association of Minnesota

What industry/sector do you identify with? Irrigated Agriculture

Number of employees in Minnesota: 500

What about your organization’s work are you most proud of? Advocating for our right to irrigate

Talk about the key opportunities and challenges facing your business over the next 5 years: The challenge will be to try to educate the non-farming public about agriculture and irrigated agriculture that we aren’t out to destroy Minnesota’s natural resources. We care about the environment just as much as they do and depend on it to make a living. And we hope to be able to pass it on to the next generation.

Kemps_Gold_(Small) Kemps

What industry/sector do you identify with? Food and Dairy industry

Number of employees in Minnesota: 860

What about your organization’s work are you most proud of? I’m most proud of our company Purpose which is “Nourishing Families.” Here are the four ways that we nourish families: 1) By providing wholesome dairy products that nourish families and promote happiness, 2) Through the support we provide each other as a family of employees, 3) Through the engagement of our employees in the communities we serve and 4) Through the return we provide for our family owners and their families.

Please highlight key trends affecting your industry: A few key trends that affect our industry are consumers are looking for more “clean label” products, healthier choices and traceability.

Talk about the key opportunities and challenges facing your business over the next 5 years: The key opportunities and challenges facing Kemps over the next five years include aligning our product portfolio with today’s and tomorrow’s consumer. The categories in which we represent are starved for innovation. We are focused on filling voids/gaps.


What industry/sector do you identify with? We are connected to all the people and enterprises that support, supply and stand with ag.

Number of employees in Minnesota: There are 745 businesses, plus branch locations in the GreenSeam.

What about your organization’s work are you most proud of? We are creating a renaissance of thinking around agriculture. Creating a wave of energy, which is beginning to convert into movement, momentum and growth. This wave is increasing the awareness of and enthusiasm toward the ag industry. That enthusiasm is having a ripple effect further developing talent to grow ag business, from both resources inside and outside of the region. As a result, our voice is magnified, fostering an environment and garnering support conducive to ag development.

Please highlight key trends affecting your industry: One of the trends we see is a new excitement from young minds wanting to understand more about agriculture. The challenge we have is how we can better relate, communicate and engage them in the industry. We all know that to continue to grow and expand ag businesses we will need many bright new minds choosing a career in ag. Today’s innovation within ag is fast paced and high tech in nearly all aspects, we need to be sure that these bright young minds see themselves on a career path with ag in mind.

Talk about the key opportunities and challenges facing your business over the next 5 years: We have the opportunity to use the potential of ag to fuel our economic growth, GreenSeam is well on its way to becoming a world-class hub of well-beyond-agriculture innovation. The challenge is the region is currently under the radar and not getting the credit it deserves as we look at production, manufacturing, professional services and technology. GreenSeam covers a wide area but acts like a spread-out small town, everyone has the opportunity to be connected. Even a healthy economy like ours can be stimulated, GreenSeam is a great way to fertilize the roots of our economy.


Hormel Foods and

What industry/sector do you identify with? Food Manufacturing

Number of employees in Minnesota: Approximately 9,000

What about your organization’s work are you most proud of? Building upon our heritage of innovation and quality, together we will elevate the everyday experience by making Hormel Foods the favorite part of any eating occasion.

At Hormel Foods, we are committed to providing consumers with high-quality, high-value branded products that are flavorful, nutritious and convenient. Guided by Our Way—our internal principles platform—we strive to set industry standards for product quality, work environment and community engagement.

Making lives better for our consumers, employees and our surrounding communities comes first at Hormel Foods. We aim to be a company people aspire to work for, with an environment that nurtures and expects innovative solutions from all. We strive to set our industry’s gold standard for quality and product and employee safety—making an impact that far outweighs our size.

Our commitment to improving lives extends to the communities in which we live and work, where we focus on hunger relief, education and supporting local programs. In addition to offering scholarships and promoting community activities, we use our expertise in food manufacturing, distribution and protein as a resource to help hunger relief efforts in the United States and abroad.

Please highlight key trends affecting your industry: Consumer trends toward lower meat consumption and consumers eating more non-meat protein. Consumer trend toward eating less sit down meals and consuming more food products in smaller portions and “On The Go.” Consumer interest in Organic/GMO Free/Natural products that in most all cases are no better than their traditional product varieties. The concept for some consumers that a perceived big company brand is not as good as a perceived small company brand.

Talk about the key opportunities and challenges facing your business over the next 5 years: High Path Avian Influenza and hog related diseases. Consumer misunderstanding of biotech agriculture including GE crops and GMOs. Changing government recommendations and general consumer attitudes related to meat consumption. International Trade Agreements and maximizing export opportunities. Immigration and availability of agriculture workers. Consumer concerns around antibiotic usage in animals and plans to minimize antibiotic usage. Consumer concerns regarding the humane handling and care of animals- fully addressing these concerns in a cost effective and efficient manner. The lack of understanding and experience that the wide majority of consumers have regarding agriculture.


Faegre Baker Daniels


What industry/sector do you identify with? Legal services

Number of employees in Minnesota: 634 personnel

What about your organization’s work are you most proud of? Faegre Baker Daniels is dedicated to serving the legal needs of regional, national and international businesses. We’re proud that we have the depth and breadth of expertise to handle the most complex transactions, regulatory matters and litigation from 14 offices in the U.S., U.K. and China. We partner with many of the world’s leading food and agriculture companies and understand the science, economics, markets, government regulations and public relations aspects of the field-to-plate cycle. Our food litigation and regulatory practice, nationally ranked in Chambers USA, defends companies in matters arising from food and dietary supplement production, labeling, distribution and sale.

Please highlight key trends affecting your industry: Cost pressures continue to affect the legal industry, and we are ever-mindful of our clients’ needs in this area. We work to find creative, yet sensible and cost-effective solutions to their challenges and opportunities.

Clients expect more than solid legal work – they are now seeking higher levels of client service. Law firms are adapting to provide their services in ways that meet each client’s specific preferences and account for their company’s unique legal needs and overall business goals. Our food and agriculture team aligns with our clients’ business segments, so that we deeply understand the industry and its core issues.

Talk about the key opportunities and challenges facing your business over the next 5 years: Competition in the legal market continues to increase. We are not immune to this and believe we are well-suited for the challenge because of our deep industry expertise. Our food and agriculture industry team is composed of more than 150 lawyers representing over a dozen practices throughout the firm. We utilize this experience in many ways, from advising and defending our clients’ products, business methods and service teams around the world, to offering industry-based professional development opportunities such as our Food & Agriculture National Conference (this year held in Indianapolis on May 24).


Duncanson Growers 

What industry/sector do you identify with? Production

Number of employees in Minnesota: We have 12 to 20 employees

What about your organization’s work are you most proud of? We are a diversified family farm in Southern MN.  We pride ourselves on being resilient and sustainable. We are engaged in agriculture on several levels and subscribe to a triple bottom line concept of striving to improve our economics, our natural resources and the community in which we live and work.

Please highlight key trends affecting your industry: Our sector has some interesting price downtrends in the near future.  We will work through them but it will be a challenge.

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Christensen Farms

What industry/sector do you identify with? Pork Production

Number of employees in Minnesota: Approximately 1,000 employees and over 300 growers partners

What about your organization’s work are you most proud of? The Christensen Farms Team takes pride in and is committed to being an industry leader in responsibly producing high quality pork for the noble purpose of providing food for a growing world.

Please highlight key trends affecting your industry: Advocacy – public/consumer perception, antibiotic use, environmental sustainability, animal well-being, sow housing, trade, food safety, herd health 

Talk about the key opportunities and challenges facing your business over the next 5 years: Same as the issues listed above – most of these subjects are areas of both opportunity and challenge. 


Consulate General of Canada

What industry/sector do you identify with? Government

Number of employees in Minnesota: 17 employees. Canada is Minnesota’s top trading partner and export market, inclusive of agricultural products. The Consulate has an officer dedicated to work on argricultural market access and trade policy matters, as well as an officer dedicated to agri-food business development opportunities for both Canadian and Minnesota companies.

What about your organization’s work are you most proud of? Canada and the US are natural partners, with an integrated supply chain, and shared strengths and capabilities in agriculture. Our mutual, friendly trading relationship gives North America a regional edge in the global food marketplace. Increased demand in Asia, for example, can be addressed through North American collaboration on increased competitiveness, trade and market access.  We are working together with many AgriGrowth members from Minnesota’s top food companies and ag producers, businesses, and groups to emphasize the importance of our cross-border trade and collaboration in agriculture and agrifood.

Please highlight key trends affecting your industry: Current trends in processed foods include focus on convenience/ready-to-eat foods, organic/natural/’better for you’ foods, increased private label (store brand) offerings, etc. These products play extremely well in the Upper Midwest market, and many ingredients are sourceable from Canada. Canadian suppliers with fresh and innovative packaging and marketing also have good prospects here.

On policy and market access matters, we are interested in working with Agri-Growth members to maintain and enhance bilateral agricultural market access and trade, collaborate to advance mutual interests in the sector, support strategic regulatory cooperation and strengthened our integrated supply chains.

In addition, we focus on legislative initiatives that could result in cross-border business growth and collaborative opportunities, as well as obstacles to trade.

Talk about the key opportunities and challenges facing your business over the next 5 years: A growing world population and limited land and other natural resources will require continual improvements in the way we produce and distribute food. Canada and the Upper Midwest are at the forefront of much of the research, development and investment in this sector, with huge potential for growth and development through collaboration.  To meet these needs, the Consulate is focusing on agricultural innovation and technology (e.g., biotech, precision ag, animal health, etc.). As well, we have convened a group of stakeholders focused on the development of a “Protein Highway” research, marketing and investment initiative between three Canadian provinces, Minnesota, and five other states.


Agricultural Utilization Research Institute

What industry/sector do you identify with? 

Agriculture – value-added agriculture products and processing

Number of employees in Minnesota: 28

What about your organization or company’s work are you most proud of?

AURI helps bring innovative agricultural ideas to the commercial marketplace.  Innovative individuals, entrepreneurs and businesses work hand in hand with AURI’s technical and project experts to develop new products and processes for Minnesota’s agricultural production. Over 100 client projects receive assistance in food, biobased products, coproducts and renewable energy areas each year, creating new utilization and economic activity. Additionally, AURI conducts stakeholder meetings across Minnesota on a regular basis to develop initiatives and disseminate information sought by the agricultural community.

Please highlight key trends affecting your industry: 

Several key trends affect value-added agricultural opportunities and the demand for AURI’s programs and services. Low commodity prices tend to drive demand to find new opportunities to utilize commodities as less expensive raw materials. Conversely, high commodity prices spur interest related to processing efficiencies, new uses for coproducts and niche market opportunities.

Changing consumer preference is a current focus area as food sector companies seek AURI assistance to keep products appealing to consumers. AURI services are currently in high demand to explore options for innovative, artisan and local foods, as well as to create clean label products.

Talk about the key opportunities and challenges facing your business over the next 5 years:  

The primary challenge AURI faces is to provide the direct technical and financial resources demanded by Minnesota’s entrepreneurs in the food and ag area with its current resources. Entrepreneurs also face funding shortfalls and a need exists for greater volumes of seed money at early stage development, as well as throughout the entire entrepreneurial cycle.

These challenges create opportunities to develop new partnerships and strengthen existing stakeholder relationships, leverage available resources and to collaborate in novel ways.


Associated Milk Producers Inc. (AMPI)

What industry/sector do you identify with? Dairy cooperative

What about your organization or company’s work are you most proud of?

As a dairy marketing cooperative, AMPI is owned by the dairy farmers who market their milk through the cooperative. AMPI produces 10 percent of the nation’s American-type cheese, processed cheese, dried whey and butter. In 2015, cheese produced at four AMPI plant locations swept the competition at two national cheese contests in the Mild Cheddar category.

AMPI takes pride in the grassroots involvement of its members and the representation of Upper Midwest dairy farmers’ interests on Capitol Hill. The cooperative is on the frontline of current policy discussions.

Please highlight key trends affecting your industry: 

Butter consumption is at its highest level in more than 40 years.

According to Commerce Department data, Americans are now spending more money at restaurants than in traditional grocery stores.

Consumers are increasingly interested in knowing more about where their food comes from and the care provided to their animals.

Talk about the key opportunities and challenges facing your business over the next 5 years:  

Volatile milk and dairy product markets are challenging. Global milk production growth is outpacing demand. At AMPI, however, a diverse dairy product portfolio results in growing sales for the cooperative. AMPI products are mainstays in the foodservice, retail and dairy ingredient sectors.

AMPI dairy farmer-owners have affirmed their commitment to quality animal care through 100 percent member participation in the National Dairy FARM Program – Farmers Assuring Responsible Management.

ISGicon full reverse


What industry/sector do you identify with? ISG is proud to serve 12+ markets by providing custom engineering, architecture, environmental, and planning services from our 7 Midwest offices. Having started in Mankato, Minnesota 40+ years ago, ISG has deep Minnesota roots with clients nationwide.

While today’s farmers feed our world population they are continually met with stringent emission restrictions, yield challenges, and environmental impact scrutiny. Our multi-disciplinary team at ISG is intimately in-tune to these challenges and have positively contributed to the agricultural and food industry, local governments, and state agencies as we continually work to collaborate and ensure mutually beneficial results.

ISG’s agricultural drainage projects have served as innovative models for the industry as they represent a fundamental shift in the way rural drainage systems and facilities interact with the landscape while improving water quality and securing financial and operational benefits for landowners and producers.

Number of employees, member patrons, growers, shareholders, etc. in Minnesota: ISG has over 170+ employees in Minnesota alone, with 200+ firm wide. In the agricultural market over 525+ projects were completed in 2015 alone, with more than half of projects residing in Minnesota.

With strong professional relationships among landowners, producers, drainage district/farmers, counties/agencies, Department of Agriculture, and soybean/corn growers, ISG’s agriculture and food industry network expands well beyond our physical footprint.

What about your organization or company’s work are you most proud of?
Over the past 40+ years, ISG has grown to a large enough size that made it possible to identify and categorize clients, creating a model that truly serves distinct markets with one of the most significant being Agriculture and Food Industry. This thought process has aided us considerably in determining strategic market needs and solutions, allowing ISG to not only demonstrate our expertise but further hone in on service offerings.

Growing to 7 offices in 3 states, we have been able to help transform the market serving clients across the Midwest. Being at the forefront of real agriculture industry improvements, such as cutting edge water quality designs and practices, has been extremely rewarding.

Please highlight key trends affecting your industry: We see grain producers looking for ever-increasing productivity from their land while society is generally demanding improved water quality; ISG’s multi-disciplinary team is actively devising new and creative ways to deliver both.

In food production, many producers are experiencing difficulties in attracting workers in a retiring workforce.  The result is many are looking for ways to automate and optimize what was once done by hand.

With total facility optimization in mind, capturing energy and byproducts for reuse makes sense environmentally and for the bottom line as well as improved wastewater treatment and water use at the plant to offset municipal treatment expenses downstream.

Talk about the key opportunities and challenges facing your business over the next 5 years:  ISG’s growth is based on the unwavering belief that we need to do so for the betterment of our people, firm, and communities served.

ISG is a solutions-based design company that is focused on relationships and real world issues.

We welcome the opportunity to partner with agricultural producers and manufacturers to improve the world around us while recognizing the increase in population, feeding a greater percentage of the population than ever before.  That is a real stress on natural resources in a time when society is demanding we do so with minimal environmental impact.  Leading our clients through these challenges inspires us as we are a firm that is ready and in position to make these changes happen.


American Crystal Sugar Company

What industry/sector do you identify with? 

Food Processing

Number of employees, member patrons, growers, shareholders, etc. in Minnesota:


What about your organization or company’s work are you most proud of?

Our shareholders are the family farms who supply us with sugar beets which the company processes into high quality sugar supplied to many of the country’s best food producers. The work that we do provides a meaningful impact to those family farms and their surrounding communities.  The sugar industry creates a $5 billion annual economic impact to the states of Minnesota and North Dakota.

Please highlight key trends affecting your industry:

Significant increases in sugar beet yields per acre have resulted from planting nearly 100% genetically engineered seed technology over the past decade.  This technology has significantly reduced our shareholders carbon footprint and created a more sustainable and environmentally friendly process for producing sugar.

Talk about the key opportunities and challenges facing your business over the next 5 years:  

There is constant concern about challenges to the sugar program that principally come from people who don’t understand the benefits of a reliable and relatively low priced supply of sugar in the U.S. Sugar traded in the world dump market has typically received significant foreign government subsidies which causes prices to be distorted and considerably lower than the cost of production in other countries. Our domestic sugar industry would be hard pressed to survive if we have to compete against imports with prices influenced by heavy subsidies.  The sugar program maintains a level, affordable marketplace for sugar in the U.S. 


AgCentric and Southern MN Center of Agriculture and

What industry/sector do you identify with? 

Agriculture and Education

Number of employees, member patrons, growers, shareholders, etc. in Minnesota:

AgCentric is made up of three Minnesota Colleges: Central Lakes College located in Staples and Brainerd, Northland Community and Technical College located in East Grand Forks and Thief River Falls, and Ridgewater College located in Wilma and Hutchinson.

South Central College in North Mankato serves as the lead institution for the Southern Minnesota Center of Agriculture.  Minnesota West Community and Technical College in Worthington along with Southwest MN State in Marshall are key partners

What about your organization or company’s work are you most proud of?

The Centers host multiple events throughout the year that provide educational, leadership and networking opportunities for those in attendance.  Team members of the Centers also attend many events, representing our agricultural programs and opportunities at trade shows, expos, festivals and career fairs.

The Centers are leading a new collaboration initiative with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the Minnesota State Colleges and University Chancellor’s office to identify needs and build capacity.

The Centers support the Farm Business Management (FBM) program and the development of the annual FBM databases.  Along with this the Centers are assisting with the development of online FBM classes.

Please highlight key trends affecting your industry: 

The US Department of Agriculture forecast that over the next five years the annual demand for college graduates in agriculture and food industries will be 57,900 jobs per year.  American Agricultural colleges will only be producing about 35,400 graduates per year and of these 57,900 only 15% are in direct production agriculture.

  • Promoting Agriculture, Food and Natural Resource Careers is a major focus. In 2013 published an Enrollment and Employment Outlook paper.  One of their conclusions was “Students felt that their peers in other career paths perceive the ag and food industry careers as hard work with little pay.  These responses illustrate the work that needs to continue for agricultural advocacy.” 

  • Overcoming those preconceptions with students, parents and school counselors is on-going.

Talk about the key opportunities and challenges facing your business over the next 5 years:  

Ensure that Central Lakes, Northland, Ridgewater, South Central, MN West and SMSU colleges are recognized regionally and beyond as the preferred source for agriculture, food, and natural resources education, providing students who are prepared to lead and make a positive impact, whatever their career path.

The Centers will be involved in emerging and innovative agriculture technology.

The Centers will leverage community partnerships and legislative advocacy efforts in ways that support agriculture, community and learning.

The Centers will work with legislative partners to address agriculture, food and natural resource issues with practical, fact-based information.

Al-Corn Clean Fuel

What industry/sector do you identify with?

Ethanol, renewable fuels and agriculture

Number of employees, member patrons, growers, shareholders, etc. in Minnesota:

AlCorn Clean Fuel has 471 members and employs 34 people at its Claremont, MN facility

What about your organization or company’s work are you most proud of?

For the past two decades, AlCorn Clean Fuel’s model has allowed for development of a firm business foundation based on success, a strong cash position and investments that add value for members and their communities and resulted in competitive returns.

The AlCorn plant has reduced water consumption to less than 2.4 gallons of water per gallon of ethanol and was the first plant to achieve “zero liquid discharge.”  In addition, energy conservation efforts have reduced the plant’s energy use by more than 35% compared to the original plant design.

Please highlight key trends affecting your industry:

We have just come out of one of the most profitable periods in ethanol’s history.  Debt is down, lenders are a bit friendlier, and management and boards have matured and learned.  We have also come through a couple of periods of consolidation of ownership, so the industry is currently in fewer hands.  A previous decision to expand capacity would affect only one facility where today that could be five, ten, or more.  We are seeing capacity growth in an oversupplied market.

Our current gasoline demand in the United States is approximately 138 billion gallons per year.  That creates a domestic demand for ethanol of roughly 13.8 billion gallons.  The constructed capacity of the conventional ethanol industry in the United States is 15.5 billion gallons, and growing.

Talk about the key opportunities & challenges facing your business over the next 5 years:

Domestic and global market demands, weather, public policy decisions and the political environment are a few of the variables that impact the renewable fuels sector.  By the time 2017 rolls around, it is likely that the ethanol industry will have a constructed capacity in excess of 17 billion gallons per year.

There is an opportunity for AlCorn Clean Fuel to continue playing an important role in the economic viability of agriculture and rural communities throughout the region.  The cooperative remains sound as it continues to successfully add value to the corn delivered by its member-owners, as well as seeking new and innovative ways to enhance revenue and reduce costs.


Davis Family Dairies, LLC

What industry/sector do you identify with?


Number of employees, member patrons, growers, shareholders etc. in Minnesota

140 employees

What about your organization or company’s work are you most proud of?

We are a dedicated team of 140 people that strive for excellence every day. We work very hard in the areas of animal health, care and comfort; team member safety and fulfillment; environmental stewardship; mutually beneficial relationships with suppliers and customers; positive community involvement; and an open-door policy as it relates to public touring of our facilities. We have benefited greatly from the dialogue we have with the public in conjunction with tours. The dialogue has discussed the reasons for the practices employed within our facilities and on the cropland associated with the feed we purchase from our neighbors. We are blessed with an affiliation with the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine that educates students, facilitates continuing education and engages in research. This affiliation enhances the student experience, continuing education within the industry, new knowledge in nascent products and practices, and helps enhance our social license.

Please highlight key trends affecting your industry

The main trends are in the areas of: quality assurance, food safety, sustainability, environmental footprint, technology adoption, animal care, consolidation, risk management, transparency, local production, and engagement with the consumer.

Talk about the key opportunities & challenges facing your business over the next 5 years

Immigration reform, environmental stewardship, volatility in the marketplace, risk management techniques, economic viability of our business scale and scope, the public’s desire to have transparency around the care of animals and the production of food, the prudent and swift adoption of key technologies that will help keep us competitive.


Burns & McDonnell Engineering Company

What industry/sector do you identify with?

Engineering, Consulting, and Construction Services for Food, Agribusiness and Energy Clients

Number of employees, member patrons, growers, shareholders etc. in Minnesota:

100 Employee Owners in Minnesota, and 5,300 Employee Owners Nationally

What about your organization or company’s work are you most proud of?

Minnesota’s economy is growing and companies need to react quickly to capitalize on opportunities. We have found that our integrated design-build services offer our clients a distinct advantage in meeting that demand. Using our approach, we’ve cost efficiently met our clients’ accelerated schedules by integrating permitting, engineering and architectural design, construction management and commissioning.  The wide range of services Burns & McDonnell offers – environmental, wastewater, energy, transportation and facility design in Minnesota and beyond – allows us provide clients with specialized design-build services tailored to their market. We are extremely proud of our ability to help clients succeed in a competitive marketplace.

Please highlight key trends affecting your industry?

Concern about our environment and the legacy we’re leaving for our children has a large effect how our clients and firms like Burns & McDonnell do business. From demands for cleaner energy and water to waste reduction and recycling strategies, we are being asked to help our clients with creative solutions like never before. In Minnesota and elsewhere, companies are implementing environmentally responsible business practices from investing in energy efficiency measures to adopting proactive waste reduction strategies. At Burns & McDonnell, we’re proud to have worked with clients to find creative, efficient solutions that meet both their business objectives and long-term commitment to Minnesota’s natural resources.

Talk about the key opportunities & challenges facing your business over the next 5 years

There is a well-documented need for greater investment in public infrastructure ranging from roads and bridges to water systems and power delivery facilities. Though Minnesota is among our nation’s leaders in maintaining its infrastructure, there is no question that funding over the next five years will be a challenge. Nevertheless, we believe this challenge will be met. America’s engineering firms have a long record of delivering innovative solutions and we’re proud to be a member of this industry. In Minnesota, we’re already at work assisting power providers, industries and public entities in improving infrastructure.

MinnWest Technology Campus


What industry/sector do you identify with?

Agribusiness, bioscience and technology. MinnWest is a business campus which has created a rich community network of talent and expertise in one location in the areas of agribusiness, bioscience and technology.

Number of employees, member patrons, growers, shareholders etc. in Minnesota:

In 2006, Life Science Innovations and Nova Tech Engineering, LLC, purchased the former State Hospital site in Willmar and repurposed it to become the MinnWest Technology Campus. Made up of a family of private technology and bioscience businesses, MinnWest Technology Campus leases to 31 companies which employs over 500 highly people in agribusiness, biosciences and technology.

What about your organization or company’s work are you most proud of?

The former Willmar State Hospital campus had been sitting vacant and left to decay when in 2006 Life Science Innovations and Nova Tech Industries, LLC purchased the abandoned Metro Regional Mental Health Center. The purchase was the largest real estate transaction in the history of Minnesota and resulted in the formation of the MinnWest Technology Campus whose purpose is to bring attention to the state’s regional employment and business development opportunities.
The purchase and remodeling of the facilities has led to the advancement of bioscience and technology. MinnWest Technology Campus works along with the Executive Team to bring attention to the region and the industries that support the region.

Please highlight key trends affecting your industry?

The MinnWest Technology Campus has worked hard the past ten years developing a Technology Campus that encompasses an Ecosystem that promotes High Tech Businesses, Startup Companies, Innovation, Research and Development. We have strategically added big companies, support organizations, service providers, research organizations and university presence. Having all of this in one hub, we think creates the perfect Ecosystem to support our region and businesses in our region.

Talk about the key opportunities & challenges facing your business over the next 5 years

The MinnWest Technology Campus looks forward to attracting more high tech companies and establishing a consistent funding mechanism currently absent in the start-up community. Our goal is to expand business successes experienced at the MinnWest Campus throughout the region.
Access to resources remains a constant challenge. Examples of flexible start-up resources include but are not limited to: a variety of tax incentives, crowd funding, venture capital, and angel investor networks.