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Making the Lab Accessible for Food-Grade Projects


The Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI) now offers food-grade lab services in Waseca, Minnesota for small-scale oil pressing, oil filtration, seed cleaning and milling of oilseed meals and other products.

The process to provide food-grade lab services started about four years ago, when AURI staff noticed a growing need for food-grade oil pressing and milling to assist small and medium-sized food businesses with their product development.

“The addition of the food grade lab space at AURI’s Waseca location will enable a unique pilot scale service to clients in Minnesota and the Midwest region,” said Riley Gordon, AURI’s engineer. “The ability to produce small quantities of food grade cold pressed and filtered oil as well as concentrated protein in oilseed meals is an industry gap which we saw an opportunity to fill.”

Gordon along with Abel Tekeste, associate scientist – coproducts for AURI, took charge of the project by sourcing equipment and navigating the food grade certification process. This included finding a new location with code-compliant plumbing as well as installing shatter-proof lights, washboard walls, an epoxied floor and stainless-steel double doors. The lab is currently state certified as a food processing facility by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

To make these changes, the project was partially funded by Compeer Financial through the General Use Grant Program. Compeer Financial is a member owned, Farm Credit cooperative serving and supporting agriculture and rural communities. The food-grade lab award fell under the “Quality of Life” category for programs or initiatives that enhance the quality of life for farmers and rural communities.

“AURI appreciates the support and partnership of Compeer Financial to costshare in the development of this food grade lab resource for innovators in the agricultural sector to explore new uses for agricultural crops and products,” said Shannon Schlecht, AURI’s executive director. “A food grade certified lab at AURI’s Waseca location provides another valuable resource for producers, entrepreneurs and businesses to explore food ingredient opportunities, which is often the highest value product use for the region’s agricultural crops and products.”

AURI also works with several University of Minnesota groups, such as the Forever Green Initiative, on developing applications and understanding functionality of new cover crops and other oilseed research related to Kernza®, Winter Camelina, Pennycress and Hemp. The new lab offers a unique resource for the future of these crops by supporting the transition from research to commercialization through the scaling of the supply chain for new ingredients.

By starting with 100 pounds of flour or 30 gallons of oil, users can advance proof-of-concept products that will allow them to seek out funding for larger scale production.

“The food grade lab is important for the food ecosystem in Minnesota because it allows producers and entrepreneurs to have new resources to obtain food-grade materials for further development,” said Ben Swanson, AURI’s scientist of food and nutrition. “Plus, this food-grade space allows any resulting product to be used for future sales, which can be great for drumming up hype for a product expo or limited-production run.”

This is just the starting point for the food grade lab.

“We constructed the space with room to grow, to offer the opportunity to add future capabilities that will drive the most value to the food and ag industry,” said Gordon.

To learn more about the lab’s services and resources, contact Riley Gordon at or (218) 281-7600 ext. 130.