Here is a contributing blog entry from Beth Calabotta, who is oilseeds-biodiesel technology manager with Monsanto, on this week’s conference in St. Louis.
Besides spending hours in the exhibit hall at the Monsanto booth, Beth had a front row seat for the president’s address and got pretty close when he hit the floor to meet and greet right after his speech.
There were several really exciting things about the recent Advancing Renewable Energy Conference in St. Louis. I have to admit I have never attended a conference of any sort where the President of the United States stopped by to offer words of encouragement. But George W wasn’t the only speaker with an impressive resume on the agenda, there were opportunities to hear two cabinet members, a US senator, CEOs from the agriculture and bioenergy sector, and leading venture capitalists, just to name a few of the many extraordinary speakers.
I spent a fair amount of time in the exhibit hall, where there were an equally impressive group of farmers, scientists, engineers and business people learning more about renewable energy during session breaks. I
couldn’t say enough nice things about the amazing people who attended. The mood was electric, and anyone who spent more than ten minutes in America’s Center was energized and knew that together, the collective group of people who attended the conference and their co-workers will solve what technical barriers remain to help make renewable energy grow and develop as an industry. I talked to a lot of different people from places ranging from the southern tip of Florida to Alaska, and I learned a lot. I can’t believe how much innovation is happening across all sectors – plant biotechnology, plant breeding, agricultural machinery, enzyme development, processing, infrastructure, marketing and distribution of biofuels, government support methods to encourage the use and development of biofuels – the list just goes on and on.
On a more personal note, it was a lot of fun to explain to people who stopped by the Monsanto booth the benefits that molecular breeding and biotechnology can play to help make renewable energy happen. I don’t remember a time in my career when so many diverse people where interested in understanding more about agricultural yields, and it was fun to talk about all the hard work and excellent results people engaged across all sectors of agriculture have delivered and will continue to deliver. Corn yields have roughly doubled every generation, and the people working on livestock productivity have also make great strides. Dr. Fraley, in his talk, told us that this amazing trend will continue. It is possible to develop both food, feed, fiber and fuel on the same acre. To put this in perspective, in 1940, the year before my parents were born, an acre of my grandfather’s farm in Johnson County Iowa produced enough corn to feed 200 chickens.
Today, that same acre produces enough corn to feed over 1200 chickens. It has always felt great to work in agriculture and to help feed people, but if feels even better to know that what we are working on helps to feed, clothe and fuel the next generation.
Thanks for those observations, Beth. I would certainly love to hear from anyone else who attended the conference to provide their thoughts and comments – and pictures, too.