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shannon schlecht executive director of AURI

Minnesota: An Unparalleled Ecosystem of Innovation

The state of Minnesota has a long and storied history when it comes to food innovation.

From developing the first truly winter hardy grape for wines that ushered in the state’s first vineyards, to the first commercial freight-cooling system, which allowed food delivery routes to increase exponentially, Minnesota is no stranger to finding food and ag solutions for some of the toughest problems. Today, I’m proud to report that tradition continues to thrive throughout the state. So much so, that that it would be accurate to refer to Minnesota’s innovative culture as a robust ecosystem, with various organizations and groups supporting entrepreneurs and each other for the good of the state.

In this edition of the Ag Innovation News, I’d like to highlight a number of organizations, competitions and events throughout Minnesota that play a meaningful role in the food and ag innovation ecosystem. Each of them have been good partners for AURI and I hope you will spend some time learning more about them.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the articles in this quarter’s edition of Ag Innovation News that highlight a number of local innovators contributing to the areas of food, renewable energy and more!


Midwest Pantry

Established in 2010, Midwest Pantry is a frequent AURI partner dedicated to formalizing Minnesota’s food creator community to make the state the best place to start and run a food business. Having worked with more than 300 local food companies to increase their sales through educational and networking opportunities, it is no surprise that Midwest Pantry was a recipient of the Minneapolis Business Journal’s 2015 EUREKA! Award for Innovation.

Learn more:

University Enterprise Laboratories (UEL)

UEL is a valuable resource in Minnesota’s innovation ecosystem. Its vision is to facilitate the growth of Minnesota’s next generation of life-science and complementary technology companies. As a non-profit organization with first-class facilities, coupled with targeted programming and services, UEL serves entrepreneurs and others throughout the region’s greater life science ecosystem.

Learn more:

 CleanTech Open Midwest

This is a non-profit clean-tech accelerator program, for startups and veteran companies, with the mission to find, fund, and foster entrepreneurs with novel ideas to solve our greatest environmental challenges. It is a 6-9 month business accelerator program which connects clean-tech companies with the people and resources that will provide a national platform for public visibility and accelerate their success. Companies accepted include water, energy generation/storage and efficiency, advanced materials and chemistry, green construction, agriculture (food and fiber), mobility/transportation and information technology.  Since its inception in 2010 the 13 state Midwest Region, headquartered  in Minnesota, has worked with more than 100 start-up companies that have gone on to raise over $25 million in external capital.

Learn more:

MN Cup

The MN Cup is the largest state startup competition. Four years ago, the MN Cup launched a food /ag/beverage division which grown from 62 entrants in 2014 to 92 in 2017. AURI is a proud supporter of MN Cup, providing expert staff as judges in various categories.

Learn more:

Grow North

Grow North is a resource and connection for Minnesota’s food and ag entrepreneurial ecosystem. It works to accelerate growing startups and the organizations that support them through large scale events, education and mentorship programming, as well as providing tools, resources and support. Their goal is fewer clicks and coffees so entrepreneurs can focus on growing their business.

Learn more:


AURI Innovation Network Programs

AURI is behind some of the most frequently held events supporting Minnesota’s innovation ecosystem. From its long-standing Renewable Energy Roundtable events to its recent New Uses Ag Innovation Forum, AURI is dedicated to leading and collaborating in the development of innovation opportunities throughout the state and the Midwest. Thanks to the Innovation Network Programs, Minnesota entrepreneurs and visionaries always have resources, networking opportunities and facilities at their fingertips.

In closing, I hope you will take some time to learn more about these organizations and the many other vital partners and the role they play in supporting Minnesota’s food and ag innovation ecosystem.