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Agricultural Utilization Research Institute Awarded USDA Grant to Establish Agriculture Innovation Center

The Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI) was recently awarded a $500,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development (USDA/RD) agency through its Agriculture Innovation Center Program. Thanks to this grant, AURI will establish an Agriculture Innovation Center (AURI’s Center), which will deliver several value-added agricultural services to agricultural producers in Minnesota and surrounding states to further strengthen the region’s agricultural sector.

“This program and funding creates a meaningful opportunity for AURI to further its mission in supporting value-added agriculture opportunities,” said AURI Executive Director Shannon Schlecht. “The program builds upon the 30-plus year partnership with the Minnesota legislature to advance value-added agriculture across the state, and the additional support from the USDA will allow AURI to enhance services to support the efforts of agricultural producers throughout Minnesota and the Upper Midwest region. Services will help strengthen the rural economy through new value-added products that meet consumers’ desire for local and sustainable products.”  The goal is to create new utilization opportunities that result in economic impact through increased sales, jobs and capital investment.

Expected to launch in the fourth quarter of 2022, AURI’s Center will deliver needed skills to agricultural producers searching for new opportunities for their products. Specifically, AURI’s Center will focus on:

  1. Creating educational programming to help producers focus their efforts on future activity and investment;
  2. Assisting producers in gaining specific skills related to marketing and creating value‐added products; and
  3. Supporting producers as they develop next steps and identify technical assistance needs

The purpose of the Agriculture Innovation Center program is to establish and operate Agriculture Innovation Centers that provide technical and business development assistance to agricultural producers seeking to engage in the marketing or the production of value-added products. This program supports the USDA/RD mission of improving the quality of life for rural Americans and commitment to directing resources to those who need them.

“Ag producers in Minnesota have the expertise it takes to expand into new and better markets with innovative, value-added products, and the USDA is committed to partnering with organizations like AURI to support that work,” said USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Xochitl Torres Small. “This award is a clear example of how the Biden Administration is building our economy from the bottom up and middle out, investing in rural businesses that know how to serve their community’s unique needs.”

To learn more about AURI and its work within the value-added ag sector, visit

To learn more about the Ag Innovation Center Program, visit:


About AURI
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.