Local farmers will grow crops to produce food additive in Weiser

By Larry Meyer

WEISER — Inulin is an organic additive in many food products, such as yogurt, and it will soon be produced at a facility at Weiser, the only one in the United States.

Officials of Intrinsic Organics, were joined by community, county and state leaders in the official groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday for the processing plant being built in the Weiser Industrial Park, located southeast of the City.

In addition, at least three local farmers will be growing the plants, Sunspuds, which will be processed by the company to produce the inulin, which is a dietary supplement, Dave Erlebach, owner of Intrinsic Organics, said.

“It’s good for the gut,” he said.

On its web page, Intrinsic Organics makes the statement,

“IO-Inulin provides a variety of functional and nutritional benefits in food, beverage and nutritional applications. These include texture maintenance, mouth feel, bulking, low-calorie sweetening, fat replacement and dietary fiber enhancement. IO-Inulin stays indigestible, while promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut and increasing the absorption of calcium. IO-Inulin has application in wide range of foods including, nutrition and energy bars, yogurt, ice cream, dressings and spreads, baked goods, cereals and beverages.”

During his presentation for the program before the groundbreaking, Erlebach acknowledged a number of people and agencies that help bring the company to Weiser.

Among the people and agencies Erlebach thanked were Northwest Farm Credit and U.S.D.A , which helped secure financing; Idaho Department of Commerce Director Megan Ronk; Kit Kamo, Snake River Economic Development Alliance; the University of Idaho for its research and assistance with certification by the Food and Drug Administration and the Idaho Department of Agriculture.

Tommy Ahlquist, who is a medical doctor (and also currently in the running to be Idaho’s governor) who once worked at Weiser Memorial Hospital, said the development is a good example of research, business and public agencies coming together for a good outcome.

“It will keep people healthy,” Ahlquist said about inulin.

The health supplement used in many products will help with diabetes and weight control, he said.

Intrensic Organics CEO Sot Chimonas said the project was 20 years in the making. It began with the goal of finding a crop to compete with corn to produce ethanol, but along the way, it was discovered that there was value in producing inulin. It is also a source of protein.

Murray McCombs, a farmer in West Virginia and developer of SunSpuds, said it is a very robust plant and only needs to be rotated after three years in one place. He had been developing the crop since 1970, he said and credited the University of Idaho with help the implements to grow it.

The goal is to have the plant up and running by late fall, Chimonas said, with an anticipated employment of 20 people.

He has been looking

for a new project, he said, and the company came calling.

“There is a need for organic food ingredients to be locally grown and naturally processed and we wanted to control the organic chain from soil preparation to the final process,” said Devin Limb, company vice president of marketing, said in a news release.

“The U.S. is currently importing over 50 million pounds of inulan per year and Intrinsic is positioned to be the first to domestically grow and produce organic inulan,” he said.

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