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Summer 2021 Newsletter

In this edition:

Dr. Joe Colletti retiring this month

Center for Crops Utilization Research tackling biofuels and baking products

BCRF Alumni Spotlight: Max Gangestad

Dr. Joe Colletti retiring this month

After more than 40 years with Iowa State University, Dr. Joe Colletti is retiring at the end of June.

Dr. Colletti served as the senior associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences for the past 16 years of his career, but his journey with Iowa State started in 1978 when he joined the college as a faculty member in the forestry department.

Dr. Joe Colletti

Since then, Dr. Colletti has held several roles in the college, serving as interim chair of the Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management from 2004 to 2005 before being appointed senior associate dean.

Dr. Colletti’s leadership was instrumental in the development of the BioCentury Research Farm, and his background in biorenewable resources made him a natural fit for the project. Shortly before his transition into the college administration, discussion began between himself and other faculty about developing an integrated research facility focused on the bioeconomy.

“We said, you know that kind of integrated facility would really put us on the map, and no one else would have anything like this,” Dr. Colletti said.

After several years of directing funding and establishing a plan for the facility, the BioCentury Research Farm was born. According to Dr. Colletti, the project has been “a success,” and continues to grow each year since its opening in 2009.

When asked about the vision he had for the BCRF, Dr. Colletti said it has more than met his original expectations. In addition to the various industry partnerships that are sustained at the farm, Dr. Colletti has been impressed by the collaborative work by faculty members to research and advance Iowa’s bioeconomy.

“All those projects early on were pushing this idea of thinking across many different disciplines,” he said. “I think that’s been one of the real joys is to know that that concept has taken root.”

Colletti speaking at BCRF anniversary
Dr. Colletti speaking at the 10 year anniversary event for the BioCentury Research Farm in 2019. 

BCRF Director Dr. Matt Darr and Assistant Director Andy Suby emphasized the importance of Dr. Colletti’s involvement with the facility, and the impact he has had on its success.

“We thankfully recognize that the BCRF would not have reached its level of activity and achievement without the steady support and leadership of Dr. Colletti,” Suby said.

Dr. Colletti lists the creation of the BCRF as one of the most memorable moments of his career, and in part, a contributor to the impact he’s made at the university during his time here. Dr. Colletti cited Iowa State’s encouragement of faculty members to pursue interdisciplinary research as a great benefit, and said he feels he’s been able to help advance that during his career.

While Dr. Colletti looks forward to his retirement, he also feels his time with the university has been well-spent.

“I am looking forward to seeing myself in a different phase of my life,” he said. “It’s been a long, long time, well, my entire professional life associated with Iowa State, so it’ll be a bittersweet day.”

Center for Crops Utilization Research tackling biofuels and baking products

The Center for Crops Utilization Research (CCUR) has taken on two new pilot-scale fermentation projects recently and shown off their capacity for innovative products from the car to the kitchen. 

CCUR is working with Kemin Industries on a pilot-scale test evaluating a new corn enzyme developed at the company, which resulted in 15 to 20 percent more ethanol GW Nutrition (GWN) on a patented technology to make green algal biomass into a “flour” product with excellent protein quality and digestibility. 

CCUR’s larger pilot scale tests, including those done for these projects, are completed using fermentation equipment at BCRF. According to CCUR Director Dr. Zhiyou Wen, these projects fit perfectly into the center’s mission to help industry partners commercialize their food and fuel projects.

“The Kemin ethanol project will greatly increase the ethanol yield with low cost, and thus help the fuel industry to increase the profit margin,” Wen said.  “GWN’s algae flour project is to produce a high protein ingredient that is more sustainable than plant and animal sources and can be used as meat or seafood analogue. This [has been] a very popular topic in food industry in recent years.”

While initial testing for both projects have been completed, the companies plan to continue using CCUR facilities to test new products and processes for the projects.

Wen said he feels the biomanufacturing industry is booming, and CCUR is evolving to meet that movement head on. In the next few months, the center plans to install a third pilot-scale fermenter and continue increasing operation efficiency to expand its capacity to serve clients. 

To learn more about research activity at CCUR, contact Dr. Zhiyou Wen at

Max Gangestad
Max Gangestad

BCRF Alumni Spotlight: Max Gangestad

Student Employee at BCRF: 2014-2016

Degree: B.S. Agricultural Engineering, emphasis in Soil and Water Quality; 2017

Current Position: Chief Operating Officer, Gross-Wen Technologies, Inc.


Working as a student at the BCRF can lead to great career opportunities, and sometimes you don’t have to go far to find them.

As a student at Iowa State, Max Gangestad had already made his decision to focus on soil and water quality through his agricultural engineering major, but a meeting with researchers at BCRF helped him carry that passion into a full-time career.

“It was a match made in heaven and something that I'm extremely passionate about, and without the BCRF I never would have would have known about Martin (Gross) or Zhiyou (Wen),” Gangestad said.  

Max Gangestad gives a tour of the Gross-Wen Technologies greenhouse
Max Gangestad gives a tour of the Gross-Wen Technologies greenhouse at BCRF in 2017. 

With such a specific career in mind, Gangestad said he was fortunate to find that connection and get the job he wanted right after graduation. With Gross-Wen Technologies (GWT) also just starting out as an independent company, he was able to help it grow from prototype designs to full-scale water quality systems.

“When I started working for the company it was a small-scale idea,” Gangestad said, “to where really we’ve scaled up and are in the process of constructing our first full-scale system right now.”

In addition to being the connection point for his relationship with GWT, Gangestad said BCRF Assistant Director Andy Suby played a key role helping him gain the skills he needed to be successful in his future career.

“I’m certainly grateful for my time with BCRF and with Andy,” Gangestad said, “he was a great mentor and someone who wasn’t just looking to get a task accomplished but looking to develop each one of his employees to their full potential.”

To read more about the work happening at Gross-Wen Technologies, go to