ADM Comes to Davis with Their First California Research Lab

ADM CEO Juan Luciano greets Davis Mayor Robb Davis

The development of University Research Park has paid off in a big way for the city, as the Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) on Friday opened its new enzyme lab on Drew Avenue.  City officials expect that the labor will provide at least 20 jobs and open the door to further opportunities between the city, university and the food giant.

The lab’s scientists will work with ADM’s other R&D facilities around the globe to develop enzyme products to serve a variety of markets, and will partner with China-based Qingdao Vland Biotech Group Co., Ltd., to develop and commercialize feed enzymes to improve animal health and nutrition.

ADM is one of the world’s largest processors and food ingredient manufacturers.  They work with farmers to connect the food they grow to consumers around the world.  They were founded in Minneapolis back in 1902 and today are one of the oldest companies on the New York Stock Exchange.

ADM CEO and Chairman Juan Luciano was on hand at the ceremony on Friday.  “For 115 years, we have been feeding the world,” he said.  “We have been equally (feeding) humanity.  We have taken food from where there is more than is needed, like the US for instance, and we move to places like China which has 22 percent of the world’s population and six percent of the water.”

He said, “We’re very excited to have this lab here.”  He noted that California is the world center for biotech companies and joked that, even though this is a $70 billion company, “we are a bit of startup” as they expand into research on biotechnology.

Earlier this year, ADM and Vland signed a joint development agreement under which the companies will share enzyme-producing strains as a basis for the development of food enzymes. Products developed under the agreement will be commercialized by both companies.

Vikram Luthar, ADM President of Health & Wellness, noted that ADM is looking to continue to expand its health and wellness product portfolio, moving closer to the consumer: “The new enzyme lab will be an important contribution to the growth of that platform.

“This facility marks the first major milestone in our new alliance,” he said.

“Working with ADM will help us accelerate the commercialization of enzyme products globally,” said Vland CEO Gang Chen. “We see this as the beginning of a productive collaboration, and look forward to working closely with some of the best enzyme scientists in the world at the new ADM Davis lab.”

Mayor Davis addresses the audience

“We are pleased to welcome ADM and their new enzyme lab to the City of Davis,” said Mayor Robb Davis.

Mayor Davis noted his work in Africa that focused on food and the lack thereof.  He said his first job was working with “children that were dying in my arms due to lack of food.  It made me think deeply about food and food policy.”

More broadly, he noted, “We all collectively create a chain from basic research to the fields and plates…  What happens here can’t be translated directly to a program to serve people’s nutritional needs.  But working together with all our individual gifts, we have the capacity to complete that chain so the nutrition status of individuals on the planet is improved.”

Mayor Davis noted that what is emerging in and around Davis in terms of economic development illustrates “cluster theory.”

He joked that we ought to rename Drew Ave as “Enzyme Way.

“Some people set out to develop a cluster,” he said.  “Our cluster is coming to us because we know, you know that our comparative advantage is in this basic research.”

He noted that, with UC Davis, there is a world class university that will help serve as ADM’s workers at this facility.  He said that what will benefit the city and ADM is that having this cluster “enables you to attract the best talent.”

Proximity to UC Davis was a huge factor in the decision to locate here.

The ribbon cutting ceremony in front of the new research lab

Vikram Luthar stated, “We chose to build the facility here in the Central Valley in no small part because of UC Davis’ tremendous expertise and resources.

“This will be ADM’s first ever basic research laboratory in California,” he said.

ADM Chief Technology Officer Todd Werpy in a release stated that “our new lab will benefit from its location near the University of California, Davis, which provides access to world-leading expertise and resources in the areas of food science and nutrition as well as animal health and agriculture.

“ADM has collaborated with UC Davis in the past, and we look forward to an even closer relationship now. We’re also very appreciative of the City of Davis, which has been tremendously supportive and helpful through this entire process.”

In ADM’s release, Mayor Davis is quoted stating, “ADM had many choices in where to open their new lab, and we are gratified that they recognized the talent and resources that come hand in hand with being a part of the Davis community. ADM’s interest in reducing food insecurity is one we share, given the challenges in this regard in our own region. We’re excited about the opportunities they’re creating in Davis, and look forward to working together in the years to come.”

—David M. Greenwald

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Tia Will

    I am very pleased to hear that ADM has opened a small research facility in Davis. I feel that these are exactly the types of “start up” businesses, whether connected with larger corporations or not, that Davis is best suited for.

    I also want people to know that the two of largest products of ADM are corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup. The enzymes that will being researched at the Davis lab are a means of helping chickens and pigs more efficiently digest the food products provided to them to maximize end product meats. Neither corn syrup, chicken or pork are likely to do much in the way of alleviation of world hunger any more than the World Food Center pushed by Katehi partnering with a maker of candy bars, snack foods, and pet food was likely to be more focused on food than on food products.

    However, it remains a plus for Davis and I hope will spark more companies which actually are focused on world hunger rather than processed foods and meat will also choose Davis as a good place to work in collaboration with the university.

    1. Don Shor

       Neither corn syrup, chicken or pork are likely to do much in the way of alleviation of world hunger 

      Pork is the most widely consumed meat in the world.

      But in developing countries, half of the current pig population is still kept in traditional small-scale subsistence-driven production systems in which pigs provide much more than meat. Pigs in such low-input systems provide value-added for farmers by consuming feed that would otherwise be lost. Hence pork might contribute to food security and provide protein, but the animals might also constitute a financial safety net, fulfill a role in cultural traditions, or provide additional cash for school fees, medical treatment or small investments.*

      Making it more efficient to produce pork will, in fact, help to alleviate world hunger as well as helping small farmers in other ways.


      1. Howard P

        Pork is the most widely consumed meat in the world.

        Except in countries with primarily Jewish or Islamic populace… funny how both Jewish and Islamic cultures agree on that… but the cultures are historically more inter-twined than either would want to admit… I love bacon! Pork chops are pretty cool, too…

        Then, there are luaus…

      2. Tia Will

        True as written Don. But meat of any type is not the most efficient way to “ feed the world”. In quotes because that was their phrase,not mine.

    1. Howard P

      Yes, John, was thinking tennis, too… my backhand was usually more “effective” (scorching my opponent(s)) than my forehand… and yes, I played competively, in HS.

      But it wasn’t charging the net, and executing an overhead smash…

      Dr Will’s post was “good news”, “bad” news, and the third paragraph was ‘cover’…

      Back on topic, I think the new enterprise will thrive, and be good…

      Though I have some concern about fee waivers, etc., that the City may have offered… I know what it took to get Mori Seki into town… and yes, you might not want to know how sausage is made… [with or without enzymes, or high fructose…]


  2. Todd Edelman

    Well, I read up a bit about

    high fructose corn syrup

    and didn’t find as much as I expected about research singling it out over other sugars in regards to health effects. Here is one critical article. 

    Is ADM growing its general sugar producing business? Are they diversifying? How have performed in the past in regard to the scientific objectivity we consider so important? There seems to be some evidence that taking risks and paying fines when caught is part of their business model.

    In regards to

    cultures are historically more inter-twined than either would want to admit

    There is no single Islamic/Muslim or Jewish culture, which is separate also from the huge variations in religious practice with both.
    That said, I assume that I don’t like typical high fructose corn syrup-marinated ham so much because of my Ashkenazi-influenced diet when I was growing up. On the other hand, I nearly always order Cal-Mex food like burritos or tacos “al pastor”.

  3. John D

    Speaking as a local business owner and past member of the Davis Chamber Board of Directors, I am thrilled with the arrival of ADM to the Davis community.  Decades in the making perhaps, but the reality of ADM having selected Davis as the home base for your new research efforts speaks volumes about the success of UC Davis and its world leadership on the frontiers of sustainable agriculture.

    Credit the university, first and foremost, for their leadership in research and for fostering such important and valuable partnerships.   Thanks also to the local development team for their persistence and unwavering commitment to the community of Davis and their vision as a developer of forward looking technology employment clusters.

    Lastly, thanks to the Mayor and our elected leadership for their continuing advocacy for this type of university linked, research-based technology employment, as well as to the City staff for helping to make this a successful introduction for a world leader in sustainable food production.

    1. Alan Miller

      No problem with the economics for Davis part, but to call ADM a leader in “sustainable” food production is going a BIT far.  Can’t we just be happy for getting a taxpaying business in town without breaking out the pom poms of promotion for a flawed gargantuan corporation?

  4. Don Shor

    This will be a great addition to the Davis community. An ADM research division will offer job opportunities, and likely internship opportunities, to many Ag science students at UCD. Hopefully other ag companies will see this, and the proximity of other crop and seed businesses in the area, and consider locating here as well. It is precisely the kind of business we should be seeking to attract.

    1. Mark West

      I agreed with everything that Don wrote until I got to this line:

      “It is precisely the kind of business we should be seeking to attract.”

      This notion that we should select certain kinds of businesses to attract, and by extension reject others, is one of the many facets of Davis that makes the town a poor place for business. It is what I refer to as ‘picking winners and losers.’ There really are very few legal businesses types that we should not welcome here as we need the jobs and the expanded tax base. If you personally don’t like the products or politics of a business then don’t be a customer, but that is not a good reason to reject their presence.

      Howard brought up another issue that is worth commenting on as it also indirectly impacts Don’s comment:

      “Though I have some concern about fee waivers, etc., that the City may have offered… I know what it took to get Mori Seki into town”

      We often do have to provide financial incentives in order to get established businesses to locate here, which reduces the City’s revenues (sometimes for years). This is why I believe we are better off providing the space for creating new businesses and also space for our existing local businesses to grow (Shilling, Marrone, AgraQuest…oops) than we are trying to woo new outside investment (ADM, Mori). If we have our own existing vibrant business culture in town, and the available space for expansion, we won’t need to provide the same level of incentives as we do now.

      1. David Greenwald

        My understanding is that the company came to Davis with an opportunity, and the city jumped on the opportunity to make sure that the administrative hurdles were cleared to make it possible.  I would argue that’s an appropriate response to a good opportunity.

        1. Mark West

          “I would argue that’s an appropriate response to a good opportunity.”

          And I agree. I was just informed that it was good customer service, not financial incentives, that brought ADM to town, which is the desired outcome. My general comment though still stands as I believe we will be better off allowing local companies that want to stay here to expand and flourish.


      2. Don Shor

        I agreed with everything that Don wrote until I got to this line:

        “It is precisely the kind of business we should be seeking to attract.”

        This notion that we should select certain kinds of businesses to attract, and by extension reject others, is one of the many facets of Davis that makes the town a poor place for business. It is what I refer to as ‘picking winners and losers.’

        Ok, point taken. Let me rephrase this. We have a chief innovation officer and staff who work on economic development. Ag companies such as ADM seem like good candidates for them to contact, solicit, inform, sell — whatever term you prefer to encourage them to consider Davis as a site for expansion. Many cities promote themselves and I assume Davis does so at trade shows, by direct contacts, and so forth. I hope the city is not just sitting back and waiting for companies to approach them about relocation and expansion opportunities here.

  5. John D

    Don – Responding to your post of 12:23:  (like Jim Frame noted, or someone noted last week, your posts are not visible to me when I am logged in)

    While I agree with your comments, they likewise imply the existence of a coherent, cohesive strategy in connection with any recruiting efforts being expended – as in a set of priorities and a conscious budget with identified resource requirements, expectations of deliverables, and some form of schedule or calendar.   Likewise, it would seem to be a “project” requiring close coordination with the university and its various development offices – if there is to be an effectives, shared strategy for outreach and recruitment.

    It would be interesting to know more about these efforts.

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