By Shannon Schlecht
AURI Executive Director

Shannon SchlechtThis past April AURI hosted its second annual New Uses Forum, which brought together a plethora of knowledgeable voices from across the value-added agriculture sector. Throughout the event, experts shared their experiences and insight with a diverse audience comprised of AURI clients, producers, entrepreneurs, business representatives and owners, government officials, leaders from nonprofit organizations and many other interested parties.

The event served as a platform to connect resources and share experiences to advance innovative food and agricultural ideas. Additionally, for the first time, a special Minnesota food-tasting event occurred at the evening reception with selected AURI food clients to showcase their products, providing a venue to both share their products and the experience of being a food entrepreneur in Minnesota.

The event focused on science and technology applications to help businesses develop new, value-added uses for agricultural products. IT also provided a venue to highlight successes and new innovative food and agricultural products, such as the Goodyear Assurance passenger tire which utilizes soybean oil in place of petroleum based products. The program also allowed for ample networking time for participants to connect with speakers and other participants to
foster conversations.

Over the course of the day-and-a-half forum attendees heard from individuals who made innovative contributions in these areas. Keynote speakers from S2G Ventures and Land O’Lakes highlighted trends in food and agriculture, including insight on new ideas seeking venture capital to innovative ways to drive sustainable agricultural production. Additionally, focused panel discussions of innovations in coproducts and biobased products, the nexus of food and health, and innovations in Minnesota’s industrial hemp sector provided insight to participants interested in developing ideas in these topic areas.

The best parts, though, were the forum’s numerous educational elements beyond the panels and keynote speakers and the robust conversations among participants that undoubtedly created new industry connections.

Thanks to this combination of intriguing topics, engaging speakers and the many educational opportunities, this year’s forum proved to be the most successful AURI event ever! AURI saw a 20+ percent increase over the previous forum’s attendance, and welcomed several more organizations to our family of sponsors. Participants overwhelmingly stated that they found value in the event, plan to attend again in future years and would highly recommend this event to colleagues.

As I write this, a team is already assembled and beginning to plan the next forum in the March/April 2019 time period. Based on feedback from the past two events, the growing ecosystem around food and agricultural innovation in Minnesota and the region, new partnerships and collaborations, as well as plethora of innovative ideas that AURI sees every day, I am positive that the 2019 New Uses Forum will be another spectacular event that you won’t want to miss!