Iowa farmers may soon have a new, and higher-value, outlet for their big harvests as manufacturers show increased interest in producing bio-based chemicals in the state.

Bio-based chemicals — which are made using cornstarch or other plant-based materials as base feedstock — are gaining traction, according to researchers, economic develop officials and industry leaders. Manufacturers are looking for ways to replace petroleum-based inputs with more sustainable sources, they said.

In addition, researchers are finding ways to make bio-based products that can compete head-to-head with existing products, or ones that have superior qualities to fossil fuel-based materials.

Iowa is ideally positioned to take advantage of that industry shift, said Debi Durham, director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA).