Bioeconomy Project

geodesign tool





Can our agricultural landscape produce more food, feed, fiber, and fuel? More importantly, can we do it while we improve farm economics, local economies, environmental outcomes, and community well-being? Members of the New Agricultural Bioeconomy Project (NABP) believe the answer to both of these questions is a resounding yes. The NABP brings transdisciplinary resources from across the University of Minnesota together to explore these questions with local communities. Through facilitated engagement and decision support tools, we create shared learning opportunities and connections for community members, argricultural producers, businesses, NGOs, and others. Participants work together to identify innovative policy, research, technology, and learning strategies that promote economic, environmental, and community win-win-win opportunities.

The current work of the NABP seeks to engage stakeholders broadly in Southern Minnesota exploring new opportunities for biomass utilization by using a systems approach. Stakeholders work with the collaborative geodesign tool, a spatial decision support system, to talk about changes to the agricultural landscape and learn about the impacts to sediment, nitrogen, and phosphorous flow, along with carbon sequestration, and economic returns. Together, we are exploring how cellulosic bioproducts represent a potential win-win-win economic opportunity for rural communities. Feedstock sources include perennial grasses such as native prairie mixtures and switchgrass as well as existing agricultural products like corn stover.

geodesign tool

Using the geodesign tool

The NABP wants to serve the needs of local community partners in exploring economic opportunities tied the local natural resources by:

  • Building community connections within and between local people, businesses, and intuitions
  • Convening diverse local stakeholders and facilitating participatory process to explore new win-win-win bioeconomic opportunities within the community
  • Connecting University of Minnesota scholars, regional and local experts, and new and emerging bioeconomic industries to communities in ways that inform economic and environmental decision making
  • Creating highly-accessible decision support tools to help local communities better understand the relationship between economics, environment, and community well-being





Marcus Grubbs, Project Coordinator, Humphrey School of Public Affairs

Volkan Isler, Associate Professor, Department of Computer Science

Nicholas Jordan, Professor, Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics

Len Kne, Associate Director, U-Spatial

Bill Lazarus, Professor, Department of Applied Economics

David Mulla, Professor, Department of Soil, Water, and Climate

David Pitt, Professor, Landscape Architecture

Bryan Runck, PhD Student, Department of Geography, Environment and Society

Carissa Slotterback, Associate Professor, Humphrey School of Public Affairs

Timothy Smith, Director, NorthStar Initiative for Sustainable Enterprise, Institute on the Environment


Funding Sources

Minnesota's Discovery Research and Innovation Economy (MnDRIVE)

USDA-NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant Program

U-Spatial, University of Minnesota

Office of the VP for Research, University of Minnesota

Institute for Renewable Energy and Environment, UMN




Agricultural Research Utilization Institute (AURI),