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Radicle Corn Challenge

Radicle Growth, a company-building platform investing in early-stage agriculture and food technologies, is delighted to announce, “The Radicle Corn Value Chain Challenge sponsored by US Corn Farmers.” The Challenge sets out to invest a minimum of US $1.5M in start-up and growth companies from around the world whose innovative technologies and business models create new uses for corn and long-term sustainable demand for corn production. These companies are expected to be developing new uses of corn that result in replacements for fossil fuel-derived materials with plant-derived materials such as sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), drop-in chemicals and plastics, compostable materials, and as yet unidentified products and product categories that could be new areas for corn-derived products to be used.


“Amidst the burgeoning expansion of the corn industry nationwide, projections anticipate a rise in surplus corn carryout. The Radicle Corn Value Chain Challenge presents an opportunity to pioneer inventive applications for this surplus, potentially opening up novel revenue avenues for corn farmers,” stated Matt Mulch, President of the Colorado Corn Promotion Council and a seasoned farmer hailing from Burlington, Colorado. “Through a commitment to innovation and fostering demand, we can safeguard the sustained profitability of American corn producers while bolstering the nation’s economic prosperity. The CCPC is proud to support this challenge.”

More than $80B of annual value in the United States

Corn is grown on nearly 100 million acres in the United States. Approximately 48% of corn production is used for animal feed, 30% is used for biofuels, and 22% is for exports and other uses. Corn production is typically responsible for more than $80B of annual value in the United States. Corn farmers across the Midwest produce the bulk of that corn, assuring the vitality of rural communities and driving this economy, and agricultural and downstream market trends are impacting that growth engine. In addition to new demand from new uses, more sustainable corn production systems overall will enhance the demand for any new bio-product in a highly competitive marketplace. With the continuing revolution in AI, biotechnology, and new business models throughout the corn value chain, we anticipate identifying companies able to modify the corn crop, biological and thermochemical processing of the corn crop, high-value health applications, sustainable fuels, and sustainable bioproducts.

A minimum of US $1.5 million investment will be made in The Radicle Corn Value Chain Challenge to one or more winners to accelerate their growth. Learn more at https://radicle.vc/the-radicle-corn-value-chain-sponsored-by-us-corn-farmers/

Investment Decisions

Investment decisions will be made during a “Pitch Day” in the Fall of 2024. A judging panel of industry experts will hear from 4 finalists who will be chosen from the global applicant pool. In addition to the funding, the winners will also get access to advice from both corn industry experts and Radicle senior executives to help accelerate their company’s business and technical efforts.

Direct Ethanol Fuel Cell

The Colorado Corn Promotion Council is working with Iowa Corn and a consortium of state corn checkoffs to develop an electric motor powered by ethanol. Power generation, such as portable generators and vehicles, is expected to face competition from electrification and hydrogen fuel cells. It would benefit the demand for corn and corn farmers if ethanol were converted directly to electricity when needed instead of relying on batteries and ethanol to hydrogen conversion.

Direct Ethanol Fuel Cells, or DEFCs, are unique to other fuel cells in that they use ethanol and do not convert it into hydrogen or other fuels before use – they use ethanol directly. Generators and other electric motors have found extensive use in telecommunications, disaster assistance, vehicles, personal use, and the military. Ethanol would be a cleaner, homegrown fuel for these applications with the added benefit of removing the safety and handling concerns associated with other fuel cells, such as compressed flammable gases like hydrogen. This project seeks to derisk a patent-pending catalyst and further demonstrate the conversion of ethanol into electricity with parameters relevant to commercial users.

Iowa Corn signed a Research Agreement on behalf of the consortium with the University of Central Florida (UCF) to develop and test a DEFC catalyst.

Key points:

  • DEFC can be used to power any electric generator or motor
  • Contract for research with the University of Central Florida was signed July 2023
  • A patent application has been filed in the US, and a peer-reviewed paper was published in Nature Energy in December 2021