Despite ongoing challenges in Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21), the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI) made significant contributions to the ag-related sectors in Minnesota and the Midwest. AURI helped spur innovation and grow the region’s value-added economy through a host of commercialization programs, educational initiatives, applied research and network connecting events.
AURI recently published its 2021 Annual Report to highlight its activities and successes of the past year. The document details the organization’s work with clients and its efforts to grow the state’s value-added agriculture economy.
During the past fiscal year, the organization worked on more than 200 projects, a 15 percent increase over the previous year. AURI’s team opened 101 new projects and completed 75 projects for clients in its four core services areas of food, coproducts, renewable energy and biobased products.
The positive economic impact of AURI’s efforts is measurable. During a five-year period ending with the close of FY21, clients self-reported that AURI’s work contributed to the creation and retention of 579 jobs across the state and $118 million in new capital investments. The work during the past five years also resulted in $321 million in new gross annual sales by clients. Looking ahead, clients estimate that AURI’s support will help create and retain 785 additional jobs while generating another $311 million in future capital investment.
In addition to the economic impact, AURI forged and strengthened many important partnerships in FY21. Once again, AURI led the Bold Open Reverse Pitch in partnership with MBOLD, a network of the state’s largest food and agricultural companies. The Bold Open brought together nearly a dozen forward-thinking Minnesota food and agriculture companies to propose food and ag industry innovation challenges in search of novel solutions from entrepreneurs, researchers and innovators. The event drew significant attention from participants across the United States and internationally.
Scientists and business development experts at AURI worked on several important research projects in FY21 that filled critical knowledge gaps in the ag sector. The food team published a digital marketing and e-commerce guide to help food businesses navigate new markets and avenues for reaching customers as demand shifted to retail products. AURI also published important research on the state’s aquaculture industry, as well as a market survey on consumer fish consumption and their perceptions of the state’s aquaculture industry.
Additionally, AURI substantially grew its participation in networking and educational events in FY21 with 2,577 people participating in 31 different AURI Connects programs. These events ranged from monthly webinars to specific opportunity area events to explore constraints and solutions to benefit Minnesota’s agriculture sector.
Finally, AURI made significant investments in new ways to better serve its clients. In Waseca, the organization added a new certified food grade area at its pilot lab facility to meet client requests to test new oilseed crops in food applications.
“From top to bottom, AURI made good on its commitment to driving long-term economic growth through value-added agriculture this past fiscal year, despite significant challenges in our industry,” said Shannon Schlecht, AURI’s Executive Director. “I am proud of the innovation and resiliency displayed by our board of directors, staff, partners and clients. The achievements detailed in our FY21 Annual Report are further proof of the significant role AURI plays in the long-term success of the food and agricultural sector in Minnesota and the Midwest. I look forward to building upon these efforts and forging new collaborations as we continue to grow our capabilities and expertise.”
The Agricultural Utilization Research Institute’s mission is to foster long-term economic benefit through value-added agricultural products. It accomplishes this by using science and technology to help develop new uses for agricultural products. It partners with businesses and entrepreneurs to generate economic impact in Minnesota communities by helping businesses take advantage of innovative opportunities in four focus areas: biobased products, renewable energy, coproducts and food. AURI provides a broad range of services, including applied research and development, scientific assistance and a targeted network of resources to develop value-added uses for crops and coproducts.