By Dan Lemke
Great ideas might remain just a concept without the resources necessary to make them real. AURI has been a unique Minnesota resource for more than 25 years, delivering a combination of innovative laboratories, pilot facilities and scientific expertise. AURI’s facilities provide businesses and entrepreneurs working to develop agriculturally-based products with valuable technical resources for unbiased testing and development.
“Our concept is to have a broad representation of science that supports AURI’s entire efforts,” says Rod Larkins, AURI senior director of science and technology. “There also needs to be specialized expertise like food scientists, microbiologists and chemists.”
Whether for a new food, biobased, coproduct or renewable energy product, AURI staff and facilities combine to give Minnesota businesses key ingredients for success.
AURI’s Crookston location features a microbiology lab that offers analysis for food, biobased and bioenergy-related projects. It has the capacity to provide multiple services ranging from organic chemistry to sterilization as well as routine wet lab work.
Through practical and applied research, the microbiology laboratory improves and expands the way in which microbes can add value, treat waste and develop new products.
“As consumers want to know more about what’s in the products they buy, entrepreneurs need more analytics and information behind their products,” says Jimmy Gosse, AURI microbiologist. “This is happening more often and earlier in the process. We help businesses hone in on all the components of their product.”
AURI’s facilities provide businesses and entrepreneurs working to develop agricultural based products with valuable technical resources for unbiased product testing and development.
AURI’s meat lab offers a broad array of product development assistance ranging from meat processing and product formulation to cooking, packaging and process troubleshooting. AURI also provides training and guidance on food safety and regulatory issues.
The hands-on capabilities and access to scientific experts trained to help with product development and analysis is in increasing demand.
“Food companies and entrepreneurs show lots of interest in having cleaner labels and more natural products, so we are working with those client’s to determine the best alternative ingredients for their products,” says AURI Meat Scientist Carissa Nath.
Analytical Chemistry Lab
AURI’s analytical chemistry lab doesn’t help make new items, but it gives entrepreneurs and businesses detailed analysis of what’s in their products. Having the general characteristics for food, feed, biobased materials or other value-added agricultural products as well as specific product attributes such as fat, protein, moisture, ash content and energy level is vital information.
“We also do microbiological testing to determine how much bacteria and microbes are in a product,” says Ranae Jorgenson, AURI analytical chemist. “That’s important for things like determining a product’s shelf stability.”
The analytical data is also useful for helping clients decide on future steps and equipping them with analytical information about their product.
The bioproducts lab is equipped for chemical processing, extraction and characterization of oils, distillation and evaporation, biodiesel processing, fermentation and digestion for fuel production and more.
The bio-conversion of molecules can help move naturally-derived resources into products currently made from fossil sources. This includes bioplastics, fuels and other ingredients.
“For anything currently sourced from fossil fuels, there are biobased alternatives,” Larkins says.
Coproducts Utilization Lab
AURI’s coproduct utilization pilot lab in Waseca provides unique equipment and expertise for particle screening, sizing, milling, drying, pelleting and characterizing agricultural coproducts. Uses for these plant and animal-derived products are wide-ranging, from renewable energy and feed to sorbents.
“There is growing interest in utilizing coproducts as feed ingredients,” says Alan Doering, senior associate scientist for coproducts. “We are also seeing increased interest in all natural and organic fertilizers for home and commercial use.”
Recently, laboratories in Marshall and Crookston designated facilities for entrepreneurs in residence. Larkins says AURI has committed to make space available to entrepreneurs who have demonstrated solid scientific concepts. Through a formal agreement, those businesses can utilize AURI labs and expertise to further develop their ideas.