Badger State Ethanol is 2022 Food & Agribusiness of the Year
Perched on the edge of town in Monroe, Wis., a complex site of towers and bins, winding pipes and numerous buildings interconnect with each other to form Badger State Ethanol (BSE). The plant started operations in 2002 and, over the last two decades, has more than doubled in size to meet ethanol demand in the United States.
The facility brings in 90,000 bushels of corn daily, grinding it up to capture starch in the corn kernel, which is then fermented to create ethanol. The distillers grains—the unused portion of the kernel—are turned into feed for livestock while the available corn oil is sold as a feedstock for biodiesel production. The facility also captures carbon dioxide for use in the food industry.
By expanding and increasing efficiencies over the last 20 years, the plant has boosted its annual ethanol production from 40 million gallons to more than 90 million gallons currently. BSE also produces 232,700 tons of livestock feed each year.
“In the early 2000s, our founders, John Malchine and Dr. Gary Kramer, had a vision for agriculture and saw a path through ethanol to add value to corn in the United States,” explained Erik Huschitt, CEO and general manager of BSE. “Today, our plant has a significant impact: employing 50 people in Monroe, providing opportunities for growers in the region, giving back to the community and providing a cleaner, more domestically secure fuel.”
Innovation, a strong commitment and a clear vision have fueled BSE’s success. Their focus on trying innovative approaches before others drives the facility forward.
“I truly believe if we aren’t green and growing, we are ripe and rotting,” Huschitt described. That mindset paved the way for BSE to create a higher protein distillers grain, increasing the protein faction from an industry standard of about 22 percent to a whopping 50 percent, putting the facility on the leaderboard in this segment. “It’s significant when you think about the world’s need for protein in animal feed,” Huschitt noted. “Now we’re seeing mass replication of this in the industry, and I’m proud Badger State Ethanol led the way.”
The company has committed to other innovations that provide other benefits. For instance, instead of venting heat from grain dryers through the stack, they diverted it to run some of the plant’s evaporation processes, reducing natural gas use by 40 percent.
“I like to think Badger State Ethanol was green before ‘being green’ was cool,” Huschitt said. “We don’t take shortcuts. When we built the plant, we invested in a thermal oxidizer to help reduce emissions even though the technology wasn’t readily used in the ethanol industry at the time. It was expensive, but we were committed to doing the right thing. Little by little, all of the changes we’ve made have positively affected our environmental impact and help to make ethanol even cleaner.”
Everyone working in the agriculture industry faces challenges, and Bader State Ethanol is no exception. “We take in 90,000 bushels and make 280,000 gallons of ethanol every day,” Huschitt said. “But every single day, there’s a new challenge and a new opportunity.”
Lately, they’ve faced many of the same challenges as the rest of agriculture.“We have to manage our inputs and outputs to make sure everything is lining up and that we are financially viable,” explained Huschitt. “Managing the cost of inputs, along with supply chain and logistics to get our materials here is always challenging. But some of the biggest challenges we face are in policy. We may think we have a clear direction, but it can change overnight. The significant changes that come out of the blue really are the hardest to manage.”
BSE helps lawmakers—and the community—understand the ethanol story through Smart Stations in Monroe and Platteville. At the Smart Stations, customers fuel their vehicles with ethanol produced in Monroe from corn grown in the region.
Navigating through the challenges and opportunities, Huschitt insists Badger State Ethanol’s success comes from beyond the innovations and technology.“If we want to look behind the curtain at the magic of Badger State Ethanol, it’s our team,” Huschitt noted. “Being able to retain a great team that’s committed to our mission is no doubt the secret to running a successful plant.”
A WINNING PARTNERSHIP
For all of its innovations, successes and more, Badger State Ethanol was named Compeer Financial’s 2022 Food & Agribusiness of the Year. The award recognizes businesses in the food and agribusiness supply chain—including processors and manufacturers in food and beverage, fiber, biofuel, grain merchandising, ag inputs, logistics and more—that have shown leadership in innovation, agricultural advocacy, community outreach and client service.
“What makes Badger State Ethanol unique is their dedication to the industry and their desire to communicate the important value of ethanol from the local level to the national stage,” said Jason Johnson, managing director of food and agribusiness at Compeer. “Agribusinesses like this are crucial in the agriculture supply chain and a major key in ensuring the vitality of rural communities. And Compeer is proud to provide support across the entire agricultural value chain.”
For Huschitt, the future of ethanol has never been brighter. “Ethanol is vital to the success of agriculture in the United States and around the world,” Huschitt noted. “We are proud to put a more affordable, domestically secure and greener fuel into the marketplace.”
This article was originally printed in the Fall 2022 edition of Compeer Financial's Cultivate magazine.