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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Ag Secretary Vilsack: OARDC, Industry Partners Key to 'New Rural America'

July 23, 2010

WOOSTER, Ohio — U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack toured a new facility that turns waste into green energy and learned about efforts to develop a new domestic crop that yields natural rubber during his first visit to the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center’s (OARDC) Wooster campus last Monday (7/19).

Watch a video of Vilsack’s visit here:

Vilsack highlighted the anaerobic digester recently built on the OARDC campus by Cleveland-based quasar energy group, which has been collaborating with Ohio State University researchers on optimizing biomass-to-energy conversion technologies and has labs and offices on campus.

The facility — a 550,000-gallon digester that can process 30,000 wet tons of biomass annually with more than 750 kW of electrical generation capacity, or about one-third of the OARDC campus’s energy needs — turns agricultural, food-processing and other organic wastestreams into methane, which can then be used to generate electricity, thermal heat, natural gas or vehicle fuel. The project has been supported by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Ohio Third Frontier Advanced Energy Program funds.

The OARDC/quasar venture, Vilsack said, represents a partnership model between industry, academia and the federal government that will generate economic development opportunities and jobs in Ohio and throughout the country — revitalizing the countryside and creating “a new rural America.”

“It starts with the private sector having a dream, a technology strategy for creating opportunity, and then it takes a great university committed, not only to research, but also to letting young people learn from that research,” Vilsack said. “This is USDA’s vision, and I believe this is Ohio State’s vision as well — supporting and working with industries that will generate economic activity and jobs taking place right here in the United States, and mostly in rural America.”

Vilsack was also briefed on a project seeking to develop a natural rubber industry in Ohio that would yield new enterprises and jobs. In partnership with leading rubber-products manufactures such as Bridgestone, Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. and Veyance Technologies (formerly Goodyear Engineered Products), OARDC scientists are domesticating a type of dandelion that yields high-quality latex in its roots.

Vilsack was invited to Wooster by U.S. Rep. Boccieri (Ohio’s 16th District), who said supporting the development of alternative energy is key to the Ohio and U.S. economies because it would generate jobs that can’t be outsourced.

“The only thing holding us back from producing more alternative energy is the energy we put into it,” Boccieri said. “The quasar facility is an example of how we can revitalize rural America and make green energy generate jobs. But it wouldn’t be possible without Ohio State linking farmers with economic development and employment opportunities.”

“We want to thank Secretary Vilsack and Congressman Boccieri for their visit to the OARDC Wooster campus,” said Bill Ravlin, OARDC Associate Director. “It was a real boost to highlighting the importance of our research in bioenergy and bioproducts. New discoveries in these areas are critical to Ohio's future and create tremendous opportunities for partnerships between the university and private industry. Our work with quasar energy group is an excellent example of what’s possible and what’s needed.”

The research arm of Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, OARDC ( is the largest university agbioscience research center in the nation.


Mauricio Espinoza
Bill Ravlin