A walk around the DuPont/Pioneer campus is an agricultural technology eye opener for the novice. The rising use of high technology for the creation of new hybrids and varieties is evident everywhere. And this week the company capitalizes on that tech focus with the opening of a DuPont Innovation Center in Johnston.
"This is our 12th Innovation Center," says Ellen Kullman, chair and chief executive officer, DuPont. "Our first was in Korea. And each is focused on a specific area. This new facility will focus on agriculture and nutrition." Kullman points to the ever-growing population and its need for nutrition as a driving force for all this technology.
The Innovation Center is a kind of showcase where DuPont can share its expertise in biofuels, crop protection products, nutrition products and other agriculture technology. Kullman notes that the centers are designed to enliven discussion and power up new projects for the company. And since the first center opened 225 active projects have started up. The key is cross-discipline collaboration. In fact, some conference rooms at DuPont/Pioneer are even called "collaboratories."
The new space, housed in the Reid Research Center, which connects to the familiar Carver Center in Johnston, will use 3,500 square feet to showcase company technology. And during the event Kullman highlighted two key areas in Iowa that show the company focus on growing tech and global research capacity. The first is the expansion of the Beaver Creek research facility with the new Beaver Creek II expansion - which will break ground in the fall of 2013. The second is the construction of a $200 million commercial demonstration facility for production of cellulosic ethanol in Nevada, Iowa.
The "static" displays of the center are designed to showcase key DuPont technologies. And in one location is a multi-screen display that can also be used for a video conferencing center to connect collaborators from around the world. DuPont has more than 10,000 scientists and engineers who work with customers, government officials, and others on a range of projects. Learn more about the Innovation centers.
The facility has a range of video demonstrations, interactive tabletop computers and more to allow visitors to better understand the technologies DuPont deploys. Ahead of the opening of the facility, ag media got a look at field work going on as well, including a check on the cellulosic ethanol project, crop protection work and ways DuPont/Pioneer is involved in enhancing nutrition.
A visit to the Beaver Creek facility showed how DuPont/Pioneer is mapping the genes for every plant being bread. In essence those maps help identify traits that can be used later to as building blocks for enhanced germplasm. The facility is highly automated using computer vision systems to analyze the genetic material in each plant.
During his talk about what goes on at Beaver Creek, John Arbuckle, senior director global marker and research technology, noted that he's working with more system analysts and programmers than ever before. "We're collecting a lot of information on this genetic material and we have to manage it," he notes. "We're collecting hundreds of millions of data points from our work that has to be evaluated to determine which should be moved forward."
He notes that in just five years the amount of data that DuPont Pioneer handles has grown 10-fold. It's just one example of the work going at in Johnston, Iowa, that is also being highlighted in the new Innovation Center.
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