Corn Board Manufacturing has ambitious plans to buy as much as 50 million pounds of corn stover from farmers every year which the Texas-based company will use to make eco-friendly shipping pallets. The company claims its CornBoard is lighter and performs just as well, if not better than traditional wood pallets and they plan to make them at a new manufacturing plant in northwest Iowa.
Corn Board already creates some consumer products using the novel material under its Stalk IT brand, including ski, snow and skateboard equipment, as well as outdoor furniture. They’ve also used CornBoard to make surfboards and even a race car shell! The raw product looks a lot like a standard sheet of pressed hardwood or plywood and the company says uses for the wood alternative are “as limitless as your imagination.”
The planned plant about a mile west of Odebolt in Sac County, Iowa, will be Corn Board’s first large-scale operation, with construction expected to begin in the spring. Corn Board Manufacturing founder and CEO Lane Segerstrom says the plant will seek 30 to 50 farmers to provide about 50,000 bales of corn stover annually, which works out to about two bales per acre. He expects Corn Board will pay as much as $750,000 for the residue and the company will bale and transport it themselves. Segerstrom says they use all their own equipment and only ask the farmer to turn off the stalk chopper on their combine. “We come in right behind them, create the windrow and bale that up in round bales and haul it off the field.”
That’s all part of keeping the process easy on the farmer, which Segerstrom believes also ensures a superior product. “Let’s say we contracted and some farmers went out, harvested and couldn’t get to the field right away and it rained on it, snowed on it — then they baled it up and bring us 500 bales we can’t take them. That’s not going to go over very well. Their job is to get the corn out. We didn’t want the pressure on the farmer.”
Segerstrom actually grew up not far from where the Iowa plant will be located and there are still two farms in the family. Aside from the personal connection, Iowa seems like the natural choice for anything corn as it’s by far the top U.S. producer. Corn Board says if just 20% of the available corn stover in Iowa was pressed into 4-foot by 8-foot by half-inch thick boards, it would cover more than 330,000 acres. The company has already been working for several years with some Sac Country farmers to test the feasibility of collecting the corn waste. “They convinced us that we should be in Sac County,” he said. “Farmers are interested in another revenue stream that’s consistent.”
At the same time, there is an ever-growing demand for eco-friendly pallets. “Customers want pallets that don’t cause deforestation and (are) more sustainable,” he said. Corn Board says around a million acres of U.S. forests are used every year to make pallets, currently, many of which only get used one time before being tossed in a landfill. Corn Board plans to make the pallets available through a lease program, enabling the company to continuously reuse or recycle them. The facility is slated to produce about 5 million square feet of board a year but Segerstrom says that could be expanded to double production. Learn more from Corn Board’s website HERE.