Dow BioProducts Formed for New Agrifiber Panel Business

28 June 2001

Dow Chemical Canada has formed Dow BioProducts Ltd., which represents Dow's entry into the business of producing engineered composite panels made from wheat straw and Dow's polyurethane resin.

This follows the closing of the acquisition of a majority of the Manitoba assets of Isobord Enterprises Inc. Dow BioProducts is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Dow Chemical Canada. Dow plans to use the acquisition, which includes a manufacturing facility in Elie, Manitoba, Canada, as a platform to enter the $36 billion market for composite panels used in the construction, home furnishing and remodeling trade, said Brad Money, who is to be appointed General Manager and President of the business by the Dow BioProducts Board of Directors. The new venture will market the composite panels under the trade name, Woodstalk.

Dow intends to invest for growth in the business, Money said, and is reviewing potential investments for operations improvements, new products, marketing and brand development. ""We believe there is tremendous opportunity in agrifiber composite panels and that our straw and polyurethane products offer environmental and performance advantages,"" Money said. ""Consumers are increasingly looking for products that reduce environmental impact, and the Woodstalk panels relieve pressure on our forest resources because they use no wood, and they do not release any volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the atmosphere."" In addition, the panels are lighter in weight than competitive products making them easier to handle and less costly to ship while providing similar strength, better machinability and improved moisture resistance.

""This is good business for Dow because it develops another downstream source for our polyurethane resin, and it fits with our strategy to develop alternative business models with strong opportunities for growth,"" Money said. ""The Dow brand will enhance the products' appeal to consumers who trust Dow's other quality products in the construction, home furnishing and do-it-yourself markets.""

The manufacturing site includes a 215,000-square-foot facility and two straw staging areas on 68-acres in Elie, which is near Winnipeg. The plant began operations in August 1998 and has about 70 employees. Agrifiber composite panels are made by combining wheat straw particles with a polyurethane binder. The resulting biocomposite material is formed, pressed and trimmed to the desired panel size. The wood-replacement products can be used for kitchen counters, shelving, ready-to-assemble furniture, cabinets, door cores, and floor underlayment.

The products have received several environmental awards, including the Sustainable Development Award of Excellence from the Manitoba Round Table and the Salute to Clean Air Industry Award from the Manitoba Lung Association. The use of straw and a polyurethane binder helps conserve forest products by using straw, an annually renewable resource. These composite panels do not use formaldehyde, which has been raised as a concern with other composite building materials. Using straw for composite panels reduces the need to burn straw in the fields, which has been a source of air pollution.

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