The Arkansas Delta's Opportunity in the $140 Billion Bioeconomy Highlighted in 5-State Regional Study

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Arkansas Economic Development Commission and the Arkansas Delta Wired region are pleased to announce the conclusion of the “Regional Strategy for Biobased Products in the Mississippi Delta” study, a five-state, 98-county examination of the potential for agriculture and forestry revitalization through the development of new markets. This study included participation from companies and organizations across Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee.


The Arkansas Delta and its partners can secure a key leadership role in the emerging multi-billion-dollar global bioeconomy by leveraging their assets and attracting technology partners. The basis of the bioeconomy is the utilization of renewable biological raw materials – called biomass – to replace petroleum through clean manufacturing processes. Biomass refers to agricultural crops and forestry materials which can effectively harness solar energy and through photosynthesis convert it into a range of useful products based around key plant components such as carbohydrates, fatty acids, proteins, sugars and starches. These can serve as the chemical building blocks to replace petroleum in many products such as biofuels, green chemicals, novel polymers, and biomaterials. The bioeconomy sits at the intersection of established industries such as agriculture, biotechnology and chemistry and merges them to create this new sector which is already valued at over $140 billion in global sales.


Among other things the comprehensive study concluded:

  • Sustainably grown and harvested biomass in the 98-county region can supply an $8 billion biofuels and biobased products industry without affecting the food and feed supply chain.
  • The transformation to a bioeconomy will support more than 25,000 green and supporting jobs during the next 10 years which are related to bioprocessing and its supply chain in both rural and urban locations.
  • The bioeconomy will open up markets for new crops which will increase biodiversity in the region, leading to reduced use of synthetic fertilizers, agricultural chemicals and water, while increasing options for local farmers.
  • The bioeconomy will contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, improved air quality, provide sustainable raw materials for local industries and bolster national security.


The 30-county Arkansas Delta is poised to grow this sector of the economy, based on strong leadership by Arkansas State University, the Arkansas Delta Training & Education Consortium (ADTEC) and the surrounding economic development organizations.


“The bioeconomy offers the Arkansas Delta farmers the opportunity to grow alternative crops, participate in value-added agriculture and, for companies within the region, to globally benefit from reliable sources of renewable raw materials,” says Jenny Ahlen, Renewable Energy Programs Coordinator for AEDC’s Arkansas Energy Office.


“We are excited to participate with Arkansas Economic Development Commission and the Arkansas Delta WIRED (ADWIRED) region to access new opportunities for the Arkansas delta, while providing a regional approach that builds strong collaborations,” says Steve Bares, Ph.D., President and Executive Director, Memphis Bioworks® Foundation.


Special thanks to the following companies and organizations who contributed to the “Regional Strategy for Biobased Products in the Mississippi Delta”: FutureFuel Chemical Company, ProAg Services, Shoffner Research Farms, The Price Companies, Inc., Arkansas Biosciences Institute at ASU, Arkansas Farm Bureau and Arkansas State University, College of Agriculture & Technology and Winrock International.


For more information concerning the study and new economic opportunities in the Arkansas Delta, contact Jenny Ahlen, Arkansas Energy Office, (501)682-2460,




Arkansas Energy Office, Arkansas Economic Development CommissionThe Arkansas Energy Office of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission is responsible for leading the development of energy policy and administering energy-related programs in the state. 

Arkansas Delta WIRED regionThe Arkansas Delta WIRED (ADWIRED) region is a U.S. Department of Labor funded initiative that seeks to transform the economies of 17 counties in eastern Arkansas by implementing strategies which support the transportation industry, the agriculture sector, and the manufacturing industry. ADWIRED is currently funding the Center of Excellence in Renewable Energy Technology Education (CERETE) which is located on the Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas campus in Stuttgart, Arkansas. This Center is developing renewable energy education programs that will support development of the workforce needed by the renewable energy industry. ADWIRED is also funding the Transportation Technology Center on the Mid-South Community College campus in West Memphis, Arkansas. This Center will train diesel/biodiesel technicians and renewable energy workers for Arkansas. This Center will include a state-of-the-art engine testing facility where the effect of biofuels and biolubricants on engine wear and performance can be tested.  This facility will be the only one of its kind in Arkansas. These two centers will work interactively to support both the production side and the user side of the bioproduct industry in Arkansas says, Dr. Sunny Morris, Executive Director of the Arkansas Delta WIRED region. 

Memphis Bioworks FoundationThe Memphis Bioworks Foundation is a not-for-profit organization, formed to lead the collaboration among public, private, academic and government entities to accelerate the growth of the bioscience industry in the region. Memphis Bioworks strives to leverage and expand the regional strengths in the biosciences through education, research, commercialization, and job training. Memphis Bioworks is leading the development of the UT-Baptist Research Park, which serves as the focal point of the city’s biomedical economic development. For more information, visit or

[1] Third Time Lucky; The Economist, June 4, 2009.