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Turning corn stover into pallets

CornBoard Manufacturing announces plans for new facility in Sac County

By Kriss Nelson - Farm News editor | Dec 9, 2020



Ground-breaking is planned for the spring 2021 for a new manufacturing facility near Odebolt in Sac County. The manufacturing facility will convert corn stover biomass into CornBoard – a wood alternative that will then be used to make pallets.

Lane Segerstrom, CEO of CornBoard Manufacturing, Inc. said the plant will be built just two miles west of Odebolt on Highway 175.

The location, to Segerstrom was a no-brainer when it came to choosing a location.

“There is lots of corn there, that is the first box we wanted to check,” he said.

But, there is also a personal attachment to the area.

“I grew up in Ida Grove and we still have two farms in the family. This is kind of full circle,” he said. “I think we can contribute something to the community. I am really excited about that. Jobs in rural America, going to small towns – bringing back manufacturing and helping the farmers with an additional revenue stream. For me, I have been inventing 20-plus years taking products to the marketplace. This is probably the most exciting thing for me. It is full circle back to my roots.”

Segerstrom said CornBoard Manufacturing, Inc. is a Texas based company. They have been developing the technology for using corn stover and making it into an environmentally-friendly wood alternative for the last 10 years.

“We have an R&D (research and development) facility in Stratford, Texas which is up in Panhandle. There are a few counties there with a large concentration of corn. We picked that area to be out of the limelight while we were figuring this out,” he said.

Segerstrom said they started developing pallets, furniture and other products as well as skis, surfboards and snowboards under the company’s Stalk It brand over the last 8 years at that facility.

“We have really tested it, pushed it to the limit,” said Segerstrom. “This helped us really discover and develop technology. We were really figuring out how to scale this and how do we duplicate the model and we are at that point now, putting our first full size facility on the ground.”

Segerstrom said they have been working with economic development in the Sac County area for quite some time.

“We have a group of people really excited about what we are doing,” he said.

“For more than a year we have been excited to work with CornBoard Manufacturing, Inc. on their new Sac County location,” said Brandy Ripley, Executive Director of Sac County Economic and Tourism Development. “This is an outstanding opportunity for not only Sac County, but also for our region and state.”

Segerstrom said the pallets made at the new facility will be a part of a lease program. When a company is done using the pallets, they’re returned to the CornBoard Manufacturing facility where they are re-used again, broken down, recycled and re-made into another pallet.

Harvesting corn stover

“We use all of our own equipment. We ask the farmer to shut off the stalk chopper on their combine. We come in right behind them, create the windrow and bale that up in round bales and haul it off the field,” he said. “The farmer really doesn’t have to do much. We want to get in and get out and we cut them a check for every bale that we bale.”

Segerstrom said it is their mission to make the removal of corn stover easy on the farmer and a process that will ensure a quality product.

“We don’t want to have an inferior product,” he said. “Let’s say we contracted and some farmers went out, harvested and couldn’t get to the field right away and it rained on it, snowed on it – then they baled it up and bring us 500 bales we can’t take them. That’s not going to go over very well. Their job is to get the corn out. We didn’t want the pressure on the farmer.”

Segerstrom said some producers may not want to invest in their own baling equipment; or they may not want a custom baler to come onto their land.

“We want the closest relationship with the farmer. We see them as partners in this whole thing,” he said.

Segerstrom said about 20% of the stover that is in the field will be harvested.

“We end up with the stalk, cob, husk and leaves and we have a separating process that separates most of the stalk and cob out, so we are mainly using the husks and leaves that we mix with the binder and press into a structural board.”

Is harvesting corn stover environmentally friendly?

“I am a fifth generation farmer. I have a lot of history of taking care of our land. I am pretty sensitive about what we do on that land,” he said. “We use a very small portion of corn stover. I think the impact on erosion and wind is very minimal. The amount of nutrients we remove is also very minimal. Less than 11% of the bales we take away have stalk in them – which is most of the nutrients. Our process is to not clear the field by any meas.”

Segerstrom feels the removal of the corn stover, in that limited capacity could be beneficial.

“If you really start getting technical, data we’ve gotten on our own, is the microbial energy it takes to break down things like the cob could be actually utilized to help the soil better,” he said. “If you are no-till, removing some of that stover could actually be a really good thing – especially with corn on corn.”

Segerstrom said they are expecting to use a little over 500,000 bales of corn stover each year – which is about two bales per acre.

“We are looking at about 25,000 acres that we will need to contract with farmers,” he said, adding those acres will most likely be within a 10 mile radius of the plant.

The facility is slated to produce about 5 million square feet of board a year.

“But we could expand and double production,” he said. “It could ultimately, with a second phase, do somewhere in the vicinity of 10 million square feet of board. That would require about 100,000 bales.”

Segerstrom said he is also expecting to bring on about 25-30 employees.

Plans are for groundbreaking to happen this spring.

“We are currently working on engineering, getting approvals. The equipment that is going in it, some is being custom manufactured,” he said. “We are planning for this fall, the third or fourth quarter, we should be operational.”

McMahon Associates Inc., an engineering and architectural firm is designing and overseeing the construction of the facility and is partnering with C.D. Smith who is providing the construction services.

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