In an effort to meet current client needs and expected growth in the food and agriculture sectors, AURI is implementing a number of upgrades to its laboratories and facilities. Specifically, the centers in Waseca and Marshall, Minnesota will undergo significant additions and extensions to increase both capacity and capabilities.
AURI’s Coproducts Pilot facility is already a unique resource for entrepreneurs in the upper Midwest. It offers a variety of technical and scientific services for those who wish to develop a value-added product based on existing agricultural byproducts and residues, however those services are about to expand significantly this fall.
First, the Waseca lab is expanding into a second facility, which will house a new fluid bed dryer. This new space and resource will offer clients the capability to receive accurate and informative baseline drying information for various feedstocks. Additionally, AURI expanded its dewatering capabilities by obtaining a new mechanical screw press to remove water mechanically versus thermal drying only for research comparison purposes.
“Because many agricultural coproducts contain high levels of moisture, adding value to them often requires the removal of water for stability and transportation,” said AURI Coproducts Scientist Alan Doering. “These new equipment additions will allow us to provide service to a wider variety of clients using agricultural coproducts.”
However, the most exciting addition to the Waseca facility will be the addition of a pilot-scale decorticator to mechanically separate plant fibers. This piece of equipment will expand AURI’s capabilities in the areas of hemp fiber and flax straw processing and is believed to be the only research and development piece of equipment of its kind in the Midwest.
Beginning this November, AURI’s Marshall site will expand to include a product evaluation center, paid for in part with bonding dollars from the State of Minnesota in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. This is an important and unique addition to the facility because it can help food entrepreneurs with a key step in obtaining some basic feedback for developing their food products.
Sensory testing is an important step in the development of new food products. Regardless of price point, packaging or consumer awareness, the product needs to have good sensory attributes which include appearance, taste and texture. If the product has off flavors or other negative attributes, consumers will not purchase (or re-purchase) it. By utilizing this new facility, food businesses can learn early-on from potential consumers and address their sensory-related concerns prior to commercializing their new product.
“This is a major benefit to food businesses as it can speed up the development process and streamline the process of taking a new food product from idea stage to full commercialization,” said Lolly Occhino, AURI’s scientist of food & nutrition. “This, in turn, saves financial resources and increases the chances of success for the new product in a very competitive marketplace.”
To learn more about either of these facilities and their recent upgrades, contact AURI at 218.281.7600 or online at auri.org.