Researchers at Iowa State University have found a highly appropriate way to use a new sort of plastic they’re making from corn and soybean oil produced here in Iowa. I-S-U chemistry professor Richard Larock says the project is one he hopes will be of interest to Iowa livestock producers.
Larock says they’re working with AgVantage of Rockford, Illinois, to develop a hog feeder. The feeder has already been designed and R3 Composites of Muscatine is going to do the prep work and will make the molds and help to get the product on the market. Larock says there are hundreds of types of hog feeders already available, so the new one will have to stand out.
Besides the fact they’re using a natural oil resin, he says the unique feature of the hog feeders is they’ll be R-F equipped. As specially-tagged hogs use the feeders, a farmer can determine which hogs have fed from which feeders, how much they’ve eaten and when it’s time to refill.
Larock says the plastics are being made with corn and soybean oil, but they could also use a host of other non-petroleum-based oils, including peanut, sunflower and even fish oil. He says the plastics have been under development at I-S-U for several years. The oils make up between 40-and-80-percent of the plastics, which Larock says are very good at dampening noises and vibrations and they’re also very good at returning to their original shapes when they’re heated. They’re being greatly strengthened using cheap fillers like glass fiber or even with distiller’s grain, a byproduct of ethanol production.
Ethanol is a fuel made from corn. Larock says it’s a perfect fit to make products for hog farmers from Iowa-grown materials, since Iowa’s the nation’s leader in pork, corn and soybean production. The new feeders should be available by 2008. The project is partially supported by a 96-thousand dollar grant from the Grow Iowa Values Fund, a state economic development program.