Last week I had the fantastic opportunity to attend the Delta Bamboo Supply Chain Summit in Greenville, Mississippi.
The event was hosted by Ed Johnson, CEO of the Delta Economic Development Center in partnership with Jackie Heinricher, CEO of BooShoot Gardens. I met Jackie last summer at the Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City where she was displaying her ground breaking discovery to grow and plant bamboo on a large scale. Jackie got my name to Ed and next thing you know I’m in Mississippi doing a presentation on the market of bamboo textiles.
“Booshoot is a biotechnology company located in Mount Vernon, Washington. Through years of research and development, Booshoot has produced breakthrough tissue-culture science that enables rapid propagation of bamboo plants on an unprecedented scale. Booshoot’s accomplishment represents eight years of research and development, establishing them as world leaders in the development of bamboo tissue culture. Their technology enables markets worldwide to meet the growing demand of bamboo for use in wood products, pulp for paper and textiles, soil stabilization, and reforestation combined with bamboo’s untapped potential for carbon sequestration.”
For the record I think Jackie is a genius and I am grateful to work with her on this domestic bamboo project.
The purpose of the summit was to gather bamboo experts from across the country to meet with Mississippi landowners and discuss the viability of growing and harvesting moso bamboo as a domestic crop. Other companies and organizations represented were, Rose Carbon LLC, Cali Bamboo, Limerick Energy, Teragren, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, US Department of Commerce, Evolution Resources, Delta Research and Extension Center, Memphis Bioworks, Mississippi State University, and the USDA. This two day meeting was a huge accomplishment since it has been over 40 years since the Delta region has thought about commercialization of a new crop.
The first day of the summit consisted of presentations on the bamboo market, benefits, yield per acre (about 25-30 dry tons per acre as compared to 6 dry tons of woody biomass per acre for poplar pine), financial opportunity for farmers, planting and harvesting considerations, and economic benefits to the community by establishing a vertical supply chain in the Delta region. The main markets for bamboo are:
1. Hard goods – flooring, cabinetry, fencing
2. Pulp and paper
3. Textiles – clothing, bedding, towels
4. Bio-mass – bamboo could make an excellent candidate for fuels due to it’s low moisture content, and low ash/chlorine contents
5. Carbon credit opportunities – moso bamboo is the largest carbon sequestering plant in the world
6. Eco-tourism – how cool would it be to tour groves of 75 feet tall grasses?
The information presented convinced me even more that bamboo is our future and we are headed in the right direction. I learned some interesting facts such as: Teragren reported that for every pound of bamboo product they make, they are taking 1.7 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. They are a CARBON NEGATIVE company. Harvesting bamboo does not release the trapped carbon back into the air, it stays locked into the product for it’s lifetime. Rose Carbon LLC is a carbon off-set company that works with bamboo plantings as a source of carbon mitigation. CEO Ted Rose presented Delta farmers the scenario of switching 5000 acres of cotton to bamboo. Farmers could expect a revenue of $89 – $179, 000 per year over a 10-20 year period. Teragren, a US leader in bamboo flooring, had made a commitment to build a manufacturing facility in the Delta region if at least 1000 acres of bamboo is planted and harvested and Evolution Resources plans to plant 1000 acres of moso bamboo in the Delta region in April 2010 to use as cellulostic ethanol.
The second day of the summit featured a wrap up session with next steps and tours of available farm land to use for bamboo plantings. I had the pleasure to tour with landowner Jim Newsome. He was a wealth of information regarding the history, culture and economic conditions of Mississippi. Catfish and cotton used to be the largest industries in this region until our nation decided that we could import these items for much less than we could produce them here. Jim showed us his shed which had 3 cotton pickers valued at over $350,000 a piece that haven’t been used in over 3 years. He says the Mississippi cotton industry is “dead”. Currently in the Delta region it is mainly corn and soybeans grown with a minimal amount of rice and cotton.
On our farm tour Jim showed us where the alligators hang out. He said he tries to “run over one every day”. The marshy areas actually had some type of bamboo growing as well (don’t know the kind though) and Jim was surprised to see he already had bamboo growing on his land. Here’s a pic of a gator I spotted outside my truck window (his head is in the center bottom – I know he’s hard to see):
Jim took us to his farm and trucking office to meet his staff and family. His grandson had made us a batch of chocolate chip cookies and Jim’s wife loaded us up with souveniers to take home. That’s the one thing I noticed about Mississippi – you just can’t beat the hospitality provided by the locals.
Establishing a domestic supply of moso bamboo would benefit so many people, it just makes me giddy thinking about it. Naturally Bamboo will in some way, shape or form be harvesting their own bamboo supply from right here in the good ol’ USA. I’ve always said there are only 2 pieces of the puzzle left to make bamboo fiber the ultimate in sustainable clothing: a domestic supply of raw moso bamboo and a cleaner, greener processing method to break down the fiber. The first step is well underway and the second I have a pretty good lead on, but will need some time to develop and crap ton of money.
Being as I was down in Mississippi where the Mississippi river flows into the Gulf of Mexico, I thought I would bring back some old photos of a family trip to the beginnings of the Mighty Mississippi right here in Minnesota. I believe the last time we were at Itasca State Park was August of 2006, a few months after Noah was born.