Lane Segerstrom studied Business at Bethel College in St. Paul, Minn., before obtaining a degree in Entrepreneurship from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. He went on to work in the service and hotel industry for a decade and then run a B&B with his wife, a chef, in Denison, Texas. In 2009, Segerstrom founded Carbon Stalk LLC and its subsidiary Corn Board Manufacturing, Inc., which holds an exclusive licensing agreement to a patented corn-based structural composite technology by the University of Illinois as well as the manufacturing process to produce CornBoard.
How did CornBoard come about and what exactly is it?
After growing up on a farm in Iowa I really understood the agricultural side of corn. As an inventor the technology of pressing corn board, which is where you take the leftover biomass residue from the commercial harvest of corn crops, separate it and press it under heat in a non-formaldehyde resin to make a pressed board, really intrigued me. I negotiated exclusive licensing rights to commercialize corn board with the University of Illinois, who invented the technology and holds the patent. The first product we launched was the StalkIt Longboard to show the strength and versatility of CornBoard.
What’s the potential of sustainable composite materials?
As a society we are continually depleting our resources and I think people are becoming conscious of different methods to conserve and replace things like consumables. There is a push for biomass and that’s exciting. As far as our area of the industry, there are other pressed-wood alternatives out there but no option has a larger biomass readily available to be used today than corn. With thousands and thousands of products made from pressed wood, the opportunity is incredible. And the market is ready for it.
What are the major growth-related challenges?
Our major challenge is being able to scale, because the demand is so great. If you bale it up in one-thousand-pound bales end to end, the annual U.S. supply of stover would go around the earth 21 times. That’s insane. So we have a supply that’s endless and renewable every year, and we have a consumer that is ready and willing as long as the price and quality are there.
Our strategy is to have smaller plants designed to need less than seven square miles of stover supply. That’s a very small footprint. If we go into small towns, we can be a positive force in that town and be able to offer jobs and opportunities in rural America. Our goal is to be one of the most efficient and one of the most positive carbon negative footprints on the planet.