In the small Route 66 town of Tucumcari, N.M, scientist and inventor Bob Hockaday recently made a move to help revitalize business in an innovative way.
Beyond the retro hotel and gas station neon signage that characterizes the town, Hockaday purchased a defunct ethanol plant with strategic plans to outfit it as a biorefinery, a business that would create not just jobs, but an ecosystem within the community that is a hub for rural ranchers.
Hockaday is a creative problem-solver and successful scientist with multiple patents and revolutionary inventions and ideas who has spent more than 40 years building a significant contribution to the scientific community. He is president of Energy Related Devices, Inc., a company he founded in 1994 with the ultimate goal to “change the world one energy solution at a time.” Hockaday said his company ERD was “created to manifest the vision that energy can be produced cleanly, simply and economically through technologies modeled on systems in nature.”
The biorefinery expedition is partially a result of collaboration with the Arrowhead Technology Incubator at New Mexico State University. ATI is an intensive startup development program dedicated to bringing technology to market in the areas of water, energy, agriculture and heath care information technology. ATI, which works with Hockaday on a handful of different technologies, was intimately involved in Hockaday’s process, from crafting a business model to financial analysis, to working to secure investors and identify a customer base that will purchase the biorefinery’s bi-product. ATI also conducted an economic impact study in 2015 for the purposes of securing a Local Economic Development, or LEDA, grant.
On June 15, through a LEDA grant from the City of Tucumcari, ERD purchased the former ethanol plant at 1600 Rock Island Road. In partnership with Robert Lopez, a Tucumcari farmer, the company plans to reconfigure the plant as an integration of dairy farming, feedlots, municipal waste, bio-fuel production, and greenhouse farming which can be utilized to obtain a more productive and less water-consuming agriculture. This business synergism takes advantage of the unique features and resources in Tucumcari.
ERD plans to reconfigure the refinery in a series of step modifications. First, the company will clean the site and refurbish the existing truck scale, grain silos and hammer mill to enable grain storage up to 77,500 bushels and to provide milled feed. Additional storage may be added. The second step will be to refurbish and reconfigure the ethanol fermenters to optimize the anaerobic digestion of 32,000 tons of manure, whey and garbage per year into pipeline quality methane and high purity grade carbon dioxide. The third step will be to provide a liquid or solid fertilizer delivery service to farms. The last steps will be to add solar and wind energy cost-saving features and to capture and utilize the hydrogen byproducts from the high temperature digestion process.
“We want to ensure a synergistic relationship with our suppliers and customers, while improving the performance of our farming,” Hockaday said.
In full operation, the plant is expected to employ 20 skilled workers. For now, ERD’s next step is enlisting supplier and customer contracts.
“Bob is pushing the innovation envelope and creating new economic opportunities for his community and for New Mexico,” said Zetdi Sloan, director of ATI. “We are thrilled to have contributed to his successful agri-tech commercialization and startup creation.”
To apply to Arrowhead Technology Incubator or for more information, visit arrowheadcenter.nmsu.edu/ati.
ATI is supported in part by the U.S. Economic Development Administration University Center for Regional Commercialization.
Author: Lauren Goldstein – NMSU