Adding Value, Advancing Energy

Grant Ives is discovering ways to add value to ethanol production.

As an undergraduate in industrial technology, he’s worked alongside researchers in the Iowa Grain Quality Initiative lab using Near Infrared Spectroscopy to analyze grain samples for protein, oil, fiber and fat content. His internship has allowed him to make strides towards his real passion— making the world a better place.

“I want to leave the world a better place for my kids,” says Ives. “I think I can do that by working with renewable energy.”

Corn is a complex grain, Ives explains, with several products available to extract on both the front and back end of ethanol production. The work he is doing will implement ideas that add value to the process.

“We estimate how new forms of additional processing could increase the profitability of an ethanol plant by adding new products to sell from the same amount of corn,” Ives says.

Charles Hurburgh, professor-in-charge of the Iowa Grain Quality Initiative, says Ives’ work is related to the dry grain milling industry. Dry grain milling processes 60 to 70 percent of Iowa’s corn and is used in 90 percent of ethanol plants nationwide.

“Technological advancements will help corn ethanol meet the technical definition of an advanced biofuel. That’s important because of the lower environmental impact of advanced biofuels,” Hurburgh says. “With current corn surpluses and corn yield trends, we could get 20 percent of our gas in the United States from corn.”

The internship broadened Ives’ understanding of ethanol production. Ives already had extensive experience in industrial manufacturing through hands-on internships and coursework. He’s excited about the future of manufacturing as a whole and says he sees some major changes in the future because of 3D printers.

“Right now manufacturing is a subtractive process and parts are carved out of blocks of material, but the industry is working towards 3D printing as an additive process to produce parts,” Ives says. “It’s booming.”

Ives began his career in civil engineering, after transferring to Iowa State from Des Moines Area Community College. However, he learned it wasn’t the career he wanted to pursue and often shares his experiences as a transfer student from both another major and a community college with other students.

“As an older student, I have a lot of experience to share with students,” he says. “I try to help them become adults. I encourage them to attend the career fair each year and learn to sell their strengths.”

Ives is working to obtain a Green Belt Certification in Lean Six Sigma from the Management and Strategy Institute. The LEAN quality based certification is just another way Ives believes he can leave the world a better place.

“I’m continually learning new things and that’s what I like about my major and this internship,” Ives says.

After graduating in May, Ives began working with Land O’Lakes as a manufacturing management trainee, and in six months will move up to plant supervisor for a Purina Feedmill.