Cedar Rapids Food and Bioprocessors Manufacturing Report

Oranuch Wongpiyabovorn, Chad E. Hart
January 2024  [24-SR 124]

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Suggested citation:

Wongpiyabovorn, O. and C.E. Hart. 2024. "Cedar Rapids Food and Bioprocessors Manufacturing Report." Staff report 24-SR 124. Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, Iowa State University.


Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has a long and notable history as a center of bioprocessing activity in the United States. Consequently, many market leaders have selected Cedar Rapids as a prime location in which to operate. The City of Cedar Rapids and Iowa State University (ISU) have established a partnership in efforts to understand and support further development of the bioprocessing and manufacturing industry in Cedar Rapids. ISU is a world leader in education and research for agriculture, bioprocessing, and engineering. Therefore, this unique public-private partnership combines excellence across industry, higher education, and the public sector to create a framework to sustain unparalleled competitive advantage for bioprocessing companies in Cedar Rapids.

This work provides a foundational overview of the current practices of major bioprocessing activities in Cedar Rapids. Namely, corn, oats, and soybeans processing; yeast and fermentation products manufacturing; and processed food manufacturing. The value of corn, oat, and soybean raw materials processed in Cedar Rapids is valued at roughly $2 billion. For each job created in the food manufacturing and bioprocessing industry serving Cedar Rapids, four additional jobs are supported throughout the wider economy. Currently, the bioprocessing industry in Cedar Rapids employs approximately 4,000 individuals in manufacturing activities, and median income for cluster employment is 43% higher than the citywide average. For the period between 2010 and 2023, employment in the food and bioprocessing cluster increased at a rate nine times that found in the general employment in the Cedar Rapids area. Given just the corn and soybean processing in the city, it takes roughly 2.1 million acres of Iowa farmland to produce the raw ingredients needed for the ag processing sector in Cedar Rapids.

Included in this report are details of the major process steps of each bioprocessing activity, descriptions of the major products and byproducts, and discussions of water, energy use, and waste generation from each area. Product volumes, economic trends, and current market values are included when available. Historical economic data for major products is included in the appendix.

Areas for potential growth in the current processing and manufacturing practices of the major bioprocessing activities are identified through evaluation of current scientific literature and survey feedback from some of the major plants and facilities in Cedar Rapids. These areas will be explored in depth in future technical publications in efforts to offer specific means to grow and improve current practices.