Cherokee officials and state economic-development leaders are cutting a ribbon today at an ag processing plant that promises new health for value-added production. Mike Schuett heads a company called BIOWA, which will run the new four-million-dollar plant, touted as the largest in the world for manufacturing certified organic plant-based oils. Iowa’s department of economic development and Cherokee development officials helped fund the new plant, which will crush oil from flax seed. Flax has the highest level of any vegetarian source for Omega-3, mostly found in things like fish oil. Today’s diet is usually deficient in Omega-3, he says, so a supplement with oil from flax seed can provide the Omega-3 you need. Schuett operates American Natural Soy, a plant that squeezes oil from soybeans, so it was a natural fit when the “Spectrum Organics” founder looked for a place to move when it couldn’t grow any more in California. They’re shutting that plant down and shutting some of its parts to Cherokee, to make it the largest EFA plant in the world. He adds right now they’re crushing around 60 tons a day and if necessary that could be doubled. The EFA or Essential Fatty Acid oil extracted from the seed will be monitored by computers, making it both the largest and the most modern facility of its kind in the country. While the organic flax will be locally-grown in time, Schuett says the problem is that it hasn’t been grown as a commercial crop in Iowa for half a century or more.No one remembers what worked the best, he says, and even Iowa State University had to go find records it had from fifty years ago, but ISU and Dordt College in northeast Iowa put in test plots this summer with help from ten participating organic farmers. Within 30 days the plant’s expected to begin crushing oil from organic flax seed, and shipping it to the bottling plant in California. In time Schuett says that part of the process may also move to Iowa. In addition to Mark and Julie Schuett, owners of BIOWA, today’s ribbon cutting at 11:00 in Cherokee will be attended by the president of SPECTRUM Organic Products, officials from the state department of economic development, Lieutenant Governor Sally Peterson, and representatives from from Practical Farmers of Iowa.
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