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Bold Open 2021: Bringing Critical Innovation to Minnesota


When it comes to Minnesota’s ag and food sectors, innovation is critical to meeting the evolving needs of consumers and decision-makers. Since this means the difference between success and failure for companies of all sizes and markets, the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI) is doing its part to accelerate innovation within the state and across the nation by presenting the third annual Bold Open Reverse Pitch event on July 21st and 22nd. 

This virtual event, created in partnership with MBOLD, brings together a range of entities, from producer groups to leading food and agriculture businesses based in Minnesota. It provides them a platform from which they can share industry-impacting challenges, whose solutions have thus far been elusive. More importantly, the event brings these companies together with entrepreneurs, researchers and innovators to build partnerships that aim to solve these challenges. 

“AURI is thrilled to lead the third Bold Open and Reverse Pitch event in 2021 to help accelerate innovation across Minnesota’s food and ag sectors,” said Shannon Schlecht, AURI’s executive director. “By bringing the state’s forward looking producer groups and its leading food and agriculture companies together with entrepreneurs, researchers and innovators from around the world, the Bold Open provides a platform to make new connections and partnerships to accelerate solutions to today’s food and agriculture challenges.”

In the past, this event supported companies like Cargill, Hormel Foods, Land O’ Lakes Inc., and the Schwan’s Company in their efforts to find solutions, ranging from fresh meat shelf life to novel uses for milk and whey permeates. 

“What drew us to the Bold Open was the ability to interact with a peer of scientific and technical team members that we would not typically come across in our
day-to-day operations,” said Dr. John McDonald, Land O’ Lakes Inc. R&D director. “Through the platform we connected with different researchers and content experts which resulted in conversations around using our dairy products for novel materials that are many times beyond food, which we were not as familiar with beforehand.”

“The audience was very engaged and it was easy to see who had interest in throwing their hat in the ring for my challenge,” said Paul Bolle, the manager of energy and byproducts for Jennie-O Turkey Store. “I felt like it was the right audience and a good audience. We have a couple very interesting proposals that came from last year’s event.”

Previous Bold Open participants have found success in the reverse pitch model because it clearly illustrates the needs that food and agriculture companies and organizations have, allowing participants with potential solutions to specific problems to easily connect. 

“Attending the Bold Open has proven to be the best way for me to get NETZRO in front of industry leaders who have problems to solve. The process of submitting a proposal is simple and AURI has done an amazing job with supporting companies on how they present the projects,” said Sue Marshall, founder and CEO of NETZRO, a modern food upcycling platform.

With so much past interest in topics related to proteins, this year’s event will, for the first time, focus on a singular theme — protein innovation: accelerating products, processes and practices.  

Spanning all forms of protein from animal to plant-based, the 2021 Bold Open aims to create new partnerships to further innovation benefitting producers, processors, consumers and the environment. Specifically, the Bold Open collaboration brings together a unique and growing ecosystem of leading Minnesota-based companies and commodity groups, representing a broad spectrum of the value-chain, including MBOLD, Cargill, Compeer Financial, Field Theory, General Mills, Grow North, Land O’ Lakes Inc., McKinsey & Company, Hormel Foods, Midwest Dairy, Minnesota Beef Research and Promotion Council, Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association, SunOpta, Techstars Farm to Fork Accelerator, and the University of Minnesota, and Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

To learn more about this year’s event, the challenges being presented, or to register for this exciting event, visit

AURI has conducted multiple research projects on different protein sources. Here are a few recent reports on the topic.

  • Report for More Sustainable Packaging Solutions to Improve Consumer Confidence in Ground Beef This research funded by the beef checkoff identifies and evaluates more sustainable packaging options that improve consumer confidence by providing tangible and consumer-visible demonstrations of the beef industry’s commitment to reducing its carbon footprint.
  • Halal + Kosher Minnesota Meat Market Assessment – This report, conducted by the University of Minnesota with financial support from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and AURI, provides a landscape view of the markets for both halal and kosher meats, such as beef, chicken, lamb, goat and fish. The two sets of practices are paired together in this report because of their similarity as religious categories of meat production.
  • Report on Minnesota Plant Based Proteins for Food – This AURI report, prepared by the University of Minnesota, contains information on plant protein sources that are currently available, emerging, or potentially viable sources of proteins. It summarizes current knowledge, advantages, barriers and areas requiring further investigation.

To find all AURI research reports, go to