Birch bark—not just canoes any more

Minnesota State Roundup

Published April 1, 2000  | April 2000 issue

The University of Minnesota-Duluth's Natural Resources Research Institute has teamed with Synertec, a Minnesota Power Inc. subsidiary, and Potlatch Corp., which operates a paper plant in Cloquet, to explore using compounds found in birch bark to produce a number of products.

The consortium's newly formed company, NaturTek, plans to develop, license and market the technology that allows separation of chemical compounds (including suberin, betulin, tannin and lupeol) from birch bark. The resulting materials could be used to make a wide range of products—from cosmetics and shampoos to agricultural insecticides to industrial lubricants.

Once the market for the birch bark byproducts is determined, NaturTek might build a manufacturing facility to extract the byproducts or license the technology to another company. In either case, the goal would be to locate the plant, with up to 50 employees, in the Duluth area.