Skip to content
shannon schlecht executive director of AURI

Executive Director’s Column: The Strategy of Success

If you read the last issue of Ag Innovation News, you know that AURI is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, and I feel it offers an extraordinary opportunity to reflect on the past and look to the future. While AURI began as a vision held by the Minnesota Legislature, our on-the-ground-impact has expanded throughout the state and now beyond its borders. As such, I believe it is important for our programs, services, and strategic direction to evolve and grow along with the organization.

To that end, I’d like to share with you some insight into AURI’s strategic plan for the coming year. I believe it will offer a higher level of understanding of the organization and its direction.

Recently, the AURI Board of Directors approved a strategic goal, “to align the organization’s resources to create the greatest impact for agriculture and the economy.” I believe this goal is of the utmost importance for AURI and the state of Minnesota, especially when considering current economic challenges in the agricultural sector. To accomplish this, each of AURI’s focus areas created a long-term vision and plan addressing key components needed to positively impact the ag economy.


The Coproducts staff will support interests from industry and entrepreneurs adding value to agricultural coproducts through product or process development. Specifically, the Coproduct focus area will diligently strive to grow the services AURI provides to clients, stakeholders and industry in the following ways:

  • Upgrade Coproduct Pilot Lab and double its workspace.
  • Construct a food grade area in the pilot lab upgrade to meet an increasing number of stakeholder and client requests.
  • Explore incubator space opportunity for coproduct focused start-up entities


To support Minnesota’s growing food innovation ecosystem, AURI will enhance both its food focus area resources and its influence in the local and national support communities through the furtherance of the following targeted themes: (1) The Nexus of Food, Health and Wellness, (2) Exploring Traditional and Alternative Protein Sources, and (3) Creating an Environment for Scalable Business. Targeted growth areas include:

  • Rebuild AURI’s meat science expertise.
  • Enhance AURI’s capability to provide food business
    modeling guidance to clients and the ecosystem through continuous education.
  • Establish a regular presence in the emerging Twin Cities Food Innovation community while continuing its strong collaboration with Greater Minnesota clients and partners.

Renewable Energy:

Ongoing collaborative research and development efforts at AURI offer significant opportunity to increase the volumes of commodities utilized in energy related applications. New programs designed to engage the statewide stakeholders are increasingly important to potential new innovative renewable energy projects. Important aspects include:

  • Supporting the biofuels industry evolution with fuel processing to more in-depth biorefining.
  • Aiding the strategic reinvestment of existing biofuels capital infrastructure into higher value diversified product capability.
  • Investigating energy applications for new oilseed cover crops and emerging dual-purpose fiber/protein crops for energy such as industrial hemp.

Biobased Products:

High value materials can be derived from many agricultural commodities and secondary processing streams. Biobased materials, associated supporting technologies and product applications offer unique opportunities in the Minnesota agricultural economy. AURI scientists and facilities support early stage assessment and development of projects that have the potential to capture these significant new business opportunities. AURI is working on unique public, private industry and internal projects that advance commercialization potential, creating patentable technology that represent innovative value-added opportunities. A few of the areas AURI is actively working in include:

  • Biobased component parts for the plant grow-out industry.
  • Understanding and supporting sustainable biobased purchasing programs to increase utilization.
  • Exploring food waste as a feedstock for biological and thermal processes to generate biofuels and biobased products.

The long-term visions in these areas illustrate opportunities for AURI to help advance commercialization across Minnesota’s agricultural valuechain entities. Undoubtedly, the outcomes from these efforts will advance new products and processes, creating new sales and disappearance of commodities, furthering capital investment, and creating and retaining jobs in both rural and urban areas across the state.