On behalf of everyone at AURI, I want to wish you a happy New Year. Even though we are still in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, it is my sincerest hope that you were able to celebrate the holiday season and beginning of 2021 in good spirits and cheer.
Regardless of what is happening in the world, I enjoy this time of year because it gives me the opportunity to pause and consider the successes of the past year, while also envisioning the future for AURI.
I am pleased to report Fiscal Year 2020 was full of growth and evolution for AURI. In that time, the organization’s scientists, experts and project teams worked on 183 unique projects, 116 of which were brand new projects with a mixture of new and returning clients. At the same time, our diverse team of experts brought nearly 100 projects to completion. I am proud of everyone’s efforts and see these metrics as signs of success for AURI and a signal for great things ahead!
During this past summer, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, AURI successfully transitioned to hosting events online. A great example of this includes the 2020 Bold Open, which brought together some of the most innovative and well-known food and agricultural businesses in the world to identify specific industry challenges, and then request proposals for solutions and ideas from producers, researchers, entrepreneurs and other businesses. At the same time, our AURI Connects team launched a new series of virtual events, called Webinar Wednesdays, which has successfully allowed AURI to continue its role in educating the public while sharing important research and innovations in the value-added agriculture sector.
Looking forward, AURI will continue to evolve and adapt in order to further innovations that benefit the value-added agriculture sector. Specifically, in the coming year, AURI will focus much of its efforts on four distinct areas of endeavor.
1. Protein Exploration: In 2021, AURI’s staff will investigate market opportunities for both plant based and livestock proteins. This is an important topic as the world population continues to grow and the desire for protein increases. To that end, we will collaborate with a variety of organizations to enhance opportunities for resiliency in the protein creation and processing sectors.
2. New Crop Market Opportunities: Consumer desire for new sustainable products continues to rise and research is underway to implement new crops that can bring additional environmental benefit. AURI launched the Fields of Innovation program in October 2020 to share information about market opportunities across the value chain and inform various groups of the potential benefits of new crops. Additionally, AURI will work with several entities such as the UMN Forever Green Partnership to explore utilization opportunities for these crops.
3. Biobased Products: In light of consumers trending away from many sources of plastics, this transition to non-plastic products is again consumer-driven. I am happy to say that the creation of new biobased materials using renewable ag-based ingredients is on target with AURI’s capabilities. We have and will continue to work with clients and organizations devoted to increasing the use of agricultural materials in biobased materials that reduces the use of petroleum-based products.
4. Collaborations: To me, this is the key to the first three objectives listed above. In order to make significant progress, AURI must continue to place a premium on its relationships, while creating new collaborative opportunities. In doing so, we can better navigate the ever increasingly complex value chains and meet market needs at the same time.
In closing, I hope the innovative efforts in the food and ag space highlighted in this AIN edition bring a bright moment to our readers as we continue to navigate through challenging times!