Monthly Feature - Who is DIS?

This column in the monthly Renewable Fuels newsletter is typically reserved for something newsworthy or that has particular importance for the renewable fuels industry. As mentioned in this month’s greeting, Decision Innovation Solutions (DIS) is now privileged to be able to provide authorship of the monthly columns you’ve grown accustomed to since 2008. The previous primary authors of the newsletter were Don Hofstrand and Bob Wisner, two very knowledgeable, well-known individuals from Iowa State University.  We are excited to carry on what they’ve created and sustained these past eight years. We have respect for what they’ve done and look forward to continuing their efforts.

Who is DIS?

So who is DIS? We believe many newsletter subscribers have heard of us, but think it a good idea to formally introduce our company, who makes up our team, what we do, and why we thoroughly enjoy our work.

Decision Innovation Solutions was founded in 2007 by Sterling Liddell and Spencer Parkinson, and is an economic research and analysis firm based in Urbandale, Iowa. All members of the DIS team have educational and practical experience in agriculture, as well as practical experience in the renewable energy industry. By our nature, we have extensive experience in communicating technical information to our clients and their stakeholders. Much of what we deliver to our clients is in written report format which typically includes informative visual components. Please visit the following links for more evergreen background on our company:

Our Work

Our clients, who are primarily agricultural and agriculture-related businesses, organizations and producers, need the right information, interpreted correctly, to make the best business decisions possible. We bridge the decision-making process by adding our economic and agribusiness insight to gather the right information. Then we use our proprietary tool, Dynamic Risk-Based Modeling™ along with other analysis tools to identify alternatives to provide our clients confidence in making decisions. DIS regularly engages in four areas of focus:

Policy Analysis

  • We provide our clients with clarity related to how various policies (current and proposed) will affect them and their stakeholders. We also provide ideas regarding how to improve current and proposed policies.
  • Experience in this type of analysis is relevant to the renewable fuels industry because public policy has great implications for the viability and sustainability of the industry.

Feasibility and Due Diligence

  • Oftentimes our clients need independent analysis related to the feasibility of their particular project. This requires in-depth understanding of the variables that affect the viability of their project.
  • Experience in this type of analysis is relevant to the renewable fuels industry because as policy changes with implications for the industry are debated and implemented, the impact on the industry can be better understood and will inform the policymaking process.

Economic Impact/Contribution Analysis

  • We regularly estimate the economic impact of certain changes in an industry on the economy and provide estimates of the economic contribution of agriculture.
  • Experience in this type of analysis is relevant to the renewable fuels industry because as the public is more aware of the industry’s economic contribution, a more informed discussion can take place with regard to the appropriateness of supporting the industry.

Spatial and Time Series Analysis

  • Using our Dynamic Risk-Based Modeling™ methodology, we are able to understand historical relationships among key variables and use this knowledge to project likelihood of certain events occurring. We use spatial analysis to “paint a picture” of large datasets.
  • Experience in this type of analysis is relevant to the renewable fuels industry because the renewable energy industry is heavy on relationships of variables across time and space. This allows us to provide additional context to the newsletter by including our knowledge of variable correlation/causation as well as the ability to add visual appeal to the content.

Relevant Engagements

Prior to the beginning of DIS in 2007 until now, current team members have been engaged in analyzing the renewable fuels industry. For example,

  • In 2006, we worked to create several stochastic (general name for our Dynamic Risk-Based Modeling™ technique) models that captured the budding relationships forming between energy and agriculture. We used this modeling technique to create representative biodiesel and ethanol models to simulate various policy measures (i.e., VEETC, biodiesel blender’s credits, etc.) on the industries. Having achieved this understanding we were able to provide context to the changes taking place within agriculture and energy.
  • Through work with one of our clients (Iowa Farm Bureau), we continually track policy that has implications for the renewable fuels and agricultural industries (Renewable Fuels Standard, Farm Bill, state policy, etc.).
  • In 2011, we created a regional “Biomass Asset Map” for USDA/Rural Development that generated estimates of the quantity of biomass that may be available given certain constraints such as costs of production of various biomass crops, bid prices, land suitability, etc.
  • Since 2008, we have been heavily involved in the renewable fuels industry from a livestock industry perspective. One of our clients is heavily involved in the supply of added energy products to livestock and poultry rations. They compete with corn as an energy ingredient. To remain a strong competitor, they must have an understanding of the relationship between livestock and renewable energy in terms of competition for feedstocks (choice white grease, yellow grease, distillers corn oil, etc.) and short to long-term profitability prospects of both. We help them achieve this understanding.
  • In 2013, we conducted an analysis for the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association that dealt with the estimating pump price impact of lowering the octane level of gasoline received at Iowa terminals from 87 to 84.
  • In 2015, we completed several projects for the United Soybean Board that dealt with understanding the value proposition of soybean meal to livestock and poultry rations (which required a sound understanding of the DDGS quality proposition as well), the levels of soybean meal (and DDGS for major livestock and poultry species) fed by state by species by life stage, the value of meat exports to the soybean industry, and the economic impact of animal agriculture for each of the 50 U.S. states and the nation as a whole.
  • We regularly author client-based reports that deal with the renewable fuels industry. Please follow the links at the bottom of this recent blog post for examples:

As shown in this column and in our interaction with some subscribers, we have a passion for agriculture and the renewable fuels industries. We look forward to the many opportunities we will be afforded during our time continuing this important effort.