Linda Benedict, Rein, Peter W. | 4/19/2005 10:28:58 PM
ST. GABRIEL – The LSU AgCenter’s Audubon Sugar Institute celebrated new facilities and a federal grant at an open house Tuesday (Aug. 31) at its research and development laboratories in St. Gabriel.
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) took part in the activities and touted the institute’s role in keeping Louisiana’s sugar industry at the forefront of the national and global markets.
The federal grant, which the Audubon Sugar Institute shares with the Michigan Biotechnology Institute International, provides $491,000 from the U.S. Department of Energy to study the conversion of sugarcane byproducts into products of significant value, such as fuel replacement and specialty chemicals.
The open house also provided an opportunity for the official unveiling of the institute’s new $4.5 million facility, which includes a 27,000-square-foot laboratory building and more than 4 acres of land on River Road in St. Gabriel. It formerly was the research and development facility of Syngenta Crop Protection, which donated the facility to the LSU AgCenter.
"This is the single largest donation ever given to the LSU AgCenter," said Dr. Bill Richardson, AgCenter chancellor. "This will help us expand our research in sugar processing and technology transfer. The Audubon Sugar Institute contributes to the sustainability of the sugar industry in our state."
Landrieu praised the corporate decision to donate the facility to the LSU AgCenter and take a building that could have been put in mothballs and give it to a worthwhile endeavor.
The federal research grant provides first-year funding for a four-year project to produce value-added products from bagasse and molasses, according to Dr. Peter Rein, the LSU AgCenter’s head of the Audubon Sugar Institute.
Bagasse, the fibrous material that remains after sugar is pressed from sugarcane, currently is burned as fuel in sugarcane mills, but the researchers hope to increase the value of what is now considered a waste product.
"The focus is adding value to cane biomass," Rein said. "This will allow the processors to get revenue from something other than the sugar."
Landrieu, a member of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, is seeking another $2 million in the fiscal 2005 budget for the project.
"We’re committed to getting and finding research money for Louisiana," Landrieu said. "When research dollars are seeded, jobs grow. We’re proud to do our part from Washington."
Research projects at the Audubon Sugar Institute focus on improving efficiency in sugar processing and discovery of value-added products from sugarcane. An example is a patented product used to control bacteria in dental equipment.
The institute also provides expertise to the 15 sugar mills in the state, offers professional development short courses in sugar technology and provides expertise and laboratory space for courses in sugar engineering through LSU’s College of Engineering.
The sugar industry – growing sugarcane and processing it into sugar – contributed nearly $589 million to Louisiana’s economy last year, and sugarcane is grown on nearly 500,000 acres in the state.