By KEVIN WALKER
WEST BLOOMFIELD, Mich. — A local woman has a patented invention that could help clean up catastrophic oil spills, such as the one in the Gulf of Mexico, and provide a brand new market for corn cobs.
Adria Brown, who is also an interior designer, is president and CEO of Recovery I Inc. and the inventor of a process called Golden Retriever. She became interested in this about 20 years ago after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska. Put simply, her invention involves the use of whole corn cobs to absorb oil and, possibly, other kinds of catastrophic spills. The trick is that the cobs must be dried as much as possible.
Brown said she was amazed when she discovered how absorbent corn cobs are. She tested the idea with a number of different kinds of oils. She approached patent attorneys about her idea and, eventually, she was able to get her process patented.
“This has been a major journey, the patent, the patenting process and what it does,” Brown said. “I am so committed to what I’m doing.
“It is the intention of my company, Recovery I, Inc., to awaken the corn industry, including all farmers, large and small, to a new market potential, and great business opportunity: treating barren cobs, already shucked, as another harvest, such as corn, squash, or beans.”
Right now Brown is promoting her project especially hard in order to help with the massive oil spill in the Gulf. She said she had a hard time finding a source of corn cobs; lately, she’s been working with Feeder’s Grain and Supply in Corning, Iowa to procure as many corn cobs as possible in the event she gets an opportunity to put her idea to work. She’s also been in touch with the people at the Michigan Corn Growers Assoc. (MCGA).
“This is another opportunity where we can use corn; it’s a real positive and a real benefit,” said Jody Pollak-Newsom, executive director of the MCGA. “There wasn’t a use, and there hasn’t been a market for corn cobs.”
Brown is trying hard to get the right people to pay attention to her idea. Some people in Sen. Charles Grassley’s (R-Iowa) office have taken notice of her work, but it remains to be seen if her idea will break through the barriers of resistance and be taken up by the government or companies such as BP.
Brown said some companies don’t want to use the most efficient means of cleaning up an oil spill because that would lessen the amount of work they would have. She also accuses the oil companies of using their own chemical dispersants to help clean up the oil because it’s more business for them when their own products are used. According to the narrative of her process at the U.S. Patent and Trademark office, the need for Brown’s process is caused by the fact that similar inventions that use corn and corn cob materials are not naturally buoyant in water. One invention that uses corn and corn cob materials, for example, is ground up and made into granules; however, once oil soaks through all of the corn cob material, it can sink to the bottom of the lake or ocean and cause more pollution.
With Brown’s process, that doesn’t happen because the oil never soaks through all of the cob. These dried cobs can also be used on polluted beaches to help soak up oil and can be mixed with the sand on the beach and picked up later. The cobs can be dropped onto a spill from a helicopter or airplane and picked up relatively easily. One of her selling points is that the cleanup process itself, unlike a chemical dispersant, doesn’t cause any harm at all to the environment. The oil soaked cobs could either be burned later as fuel or the oil separated from the cob to be used later.
For more information on Brown’s invention, go to her company’s website at www.recoveryiinc.net