News Article

USDA gives $1 million grant to Savanna company
Date: Jun 30, 2008
Author: Samantha Sims Pidde
Source: Clinton Herald ( click here to go to the source)

Featured firm in this article: Fluidic microControls Inc of Savanna, IL

SAVANNA, Ill. — The Savanna-based company N-Ovation, the Naperville, Ill.-based Packer Engineering and Northern Illinois University held a presentation at the former Savanna Army Depot last week to announce a $1 million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture for research and development of homegrown electricity and nitrogen fertilizer.

The various representatives agreed that current research and the grant could greatly benefit Carroll County in the future.

"The Local Redevelopment Authority is happy to help Gary Frederick, Joe Hass and Rod Fritz celebrate the announcement of the $1 million USDA grant for research and development of homegrown electricity and nitrogen fertilizer," stated a release from the Jo-Carroll Local Redevelopment Authority.

The release, given out at the announcement, continued, adding, "To have a local trio with auspicious teammates Packer Engineering and Northern Illinois University locate their operations in the Savanna Depot Park is exciting.

"Their plan and its potential impact on the farming community, the economy of northwest Illinois and energy and food production worldwide is spectacular."

"This grant is very important to us. We're going to get within somewhere between $400,000 to $500,000 that will flow to Carroll County. It's going to give us the seed money to prove this process, whether our ideas are viable," said Frederick, designer, manufacturer and president of Fluidic MicroControls.

Haas, of Haas Farms and vice president of N-Ovation, Fritz, of Fritz Farms and president of N-Ovation, and Frederick have joined together with Peter Schubert, the senior director of research and development with Packer Engineering, to create a unit that would allow a farmer to create electricity for his farm and make nitrogen fertilizer.

This process that is being developed by N-Ovation uses a century-old technique for capturing nitrogen from the air. This process has been updated by the company with modern technology.

"Our goal is to make this process 10 times more efficient than it was historically," said Frederick. "This process uses a generator that is fueled by corn stover and other agricultural waste. This power plant would generate the electricity needs of the average farm, while also powering the nitrogen making process. The process creates heat and ash. The ash is comprised of nutrients that can be returned to the soil, reducing fertilizer bills.

Currently farmers can transport their agricultural waste to processing plants to have it converted into fertilizer. However, according to Schubert, this process can be difficult and can waste fuel and time hauling the waste to the plant.

"We want to do something that is all self-contained on the farm so the farmer can be more independent," said Schubert.

"Our role in this thing, is to take this process and greatly enhance its efficiency and control the process so that it's a very safe process and one that the farmer can buy the equipment and virtually run hands off, maybe maintenance once a year," said Frederick.

According to Schubert, the estimated cost for a farmer to purchase this product would be $200,000. However, he does not think the price would prevent most farmers from purchasing one.

"But if you talk to farmers, that is not an unreasonable amount of money," Schubert said. He said that in the long run, the benefit would make the initial cost acceptable. He also proposed that eventually, this product could be used by the farmer to make an extra profit selling power and fertilizer.

Richard Johnson, director of research and development outreach at NIU, has worked side-by-side with N-Ovation and Packer Engineering to receive the grant and further the research. He said NIU wishes to share its talents and skills to try to create new jobs and maintain existing jobs in a community. He said that when he first heard of the group's idea to create a device that would generate a large amount of electricity and create nitrogen fertilizer through electricity, he thought it was a great idea.

"I said ‘well here's a marriage made in heaven,'" said Johnson.

He said that new ways for farmers to generate fertilizer is especially important now with rising petroleum prices.

"Because today's nitrogen fertilizer is based on natural gas, it has also neared the cost of the increases in petroleum," said Johnson. "What's going to make or break this thing is how efficiently we do it."

He said in order for this product to be successful in the local agricultural community, it will need to be durable and efficient. Frederick agreed that the group had a large amount of work and development to do.

"We've got a big job ahead of us," said Frederick. - See more at: