Big River Resources, Prairie Gold form joint venture

By Big River Resources LLC | October 04, 2013

Big River Resources LLC, a West Burlington, Iowa-based company and Prairie Gold Inc., of Bloomington, Ill., have signed agreements forming a joint venture to produce corn zein proteins. The new venture, Big River Prairie Gold LLC will construct and operate a zein production facility near Galva, Ill., on the site of one of Big River’s 110 million gallon ethanol plants. Zein is a high valued co-product that can be produced from corn prior to the ethanol fermentation process.

Prairie Gold will provide the technology to extract and purify the zein proteins and Big River will provide the ethanol solvent, corn feedstock, infrastructure, and management to operate the facility. This “first-of-a-kind” production plant is expected to employ approximately 15 people in and around Henry County, Ill. Construction of the plant should begin before April 2014.

Zein is a complex of proteins found only in corn and sorghum. These proteins are soluble in organic solvents, such as ethanol, but are not soluble in water. Zein forms a polymer that may be used as a plastic, fiber, film coating, confectioners glaze or gum. It is also edible (with very low allergenicity), fully biodegradable and has excellent grease resistant properties. The combination of these characteristics makes zein a unique and attractive specialty material for food and industrial applications. Interest in zein is growing, but until now zein has been too expensive to enter into high volume applications.

Ray Defenbaugh, Chairman and CEO of Big River Resources, said, “The ethanol industry is looking for ways to diversify their product mix and by adapting this technology we are becoming a biorefinery capable of producing several food, industrial and chemical products.”

The two companies enjoy similar goals which include: providing rural employment, increasing value of rural products and adding value to investor returns.