4 minutes with…Dennis Adkesson, Consultant, Tate & Lyle

January 25, 2015 |

adkessonTell us about your organization and it’s role in the advanced bioeconomy.

Tate & Lyle operates three corn wet mills in the US, and views bio-based chemicals as a way to sustain grind as HFCS and starch markets decline. We currently have an ethanol plant and are a partner with DuPont in the JV that produces 1,3-propanediol (PDO).

Tell us about your role and what you are focused on in the next 12 months.

I work as a consultant to help evaluate bio-based opportunities. Because of our experience with PDO we understand the development and scale-up of bio-based chemical processes, and are positioned to assist other companies in the development and scale-up of their processes. An example is the development project that we had with Genomatica for their 1,4-butandiol process. Currently we are working with a couple of companies in our pilot facility in Decatur, IL, and are looking for a company that could utilize our semi-works facility that was most recently used by Amyris to produce farnesene.

What do you feel are the most important milestones the industry must achieve in the next 5 years?

Cost competiveness with petro-based materials
Cheap cellulosic based feedstocks
A united vision between industry and government that does not change with every election

If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about the Advanced Bioeconomy, what would you change?

Government support needs to be there consistently.

Of all the reasons that influenced you to join the Advanced Bioeconomy industry, what single reason stands out for you as still being compelling and important to you?

The world is undergoing a paradigm shift in how chemicals and eventually fuels will be produced. The advances in genetic engineering will enable technology that we haven’t even dreamed of yet. It’s enormously fun to be there at the start.

Where are you from? 

Decatur, IL

What was your undergraduate major in college, and where did you attend? Why did you choose that school and that pathway? 

Science Engineering (i.e. Chemical Engineering) at Northwestern University. I loved chemistry and math, and attended a summer program for high school students at Northwestern in 1964. At that point I was hooked.

Who do you consider your mentors. What have you learned from them?

Robert Jansen at AE Staley and then Tate & Lyle who taught me how to be a good plant process engineer.
Terry Shaw at AE Staley who taught me how to be a good project engineer.
Robert Schanefelt who Global VP of R&D at Tate & Lyle for many years who taught me how to do effective research.
Jeff Lievense, former VP of Tate & Lyle bio-ventures (now at Genomatica) who taught me fermentation and bio-based processing.
A person from my generation who I admire greatly but have never met is Craig Venter, who has done so much to enable genetic engineering as it exists today.
There are also many, many others.

What’s the biggest lesson you ever learned during a period of adversity?

Never give up and don’t sweat the small stuff. Have a vision and make it happen.

What hobbies do you pursue, away from your work in the industry? 

Golf
Music (have played the violin in the local symphony for 53 years)
Reading

What 3 books would you take to read, if stranded on a desert island?

The Prince of Tides
Sophie’s Choice
Shakespeare’s Sonnets
Could I have 300 books instead of 3?

What books or articles are on your reading list right now, or you just completed and really enjoyed?

The Bully Pulpit
The Last Lion (Vol. 3)
Phi – The Golden Ratio
Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s End
Field of Prey
Chernow’s Biography of George Washington
Our Mathematical Universe

What’s your favorite city or place to visit, for a holiday?

Captiva Island, FL
Monterey, CA

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Category: Million Minds

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