Each year, AURI undertakes significant initiatives and influential studies related to value-added agriculture, and makes them available to the public in order to further innovation in the areas of food, coproducts, renewable energy and biobased products.

Previous reports covered all manner of topics related to value-added agriculture, and now AURI releases new initiatives focused on the areas of food, entrepreneurialism, biobased renewable energy, and clean labeling trends.

Read on for an overview of the newly available studies, and if they pique your interest be sure to download them from auri.org

Clean Labels in the Schools

In August 2017, AURI and its Ag Innovation Partner, the Stine Group, surveyed Nutrition Services Directors (NSDs) in 120 Minnesota school districts. The goal was to gauge NSDs understanding and interest in Clean Label products for their programs. Additionally, the survey inquired about their willingness and ability to purchase value-added foods processed in Minnesota.

The results of this survey were collected into a report called Opinions of Minnesota School Lunch Professionals about Minnesota Food Products. It highlights a number of points of interest for food entrepreneurs, which may be helpful in getting their products into school lunch programs.

For example, the survey discovered that respondents were familiar with the concept of Clean Labeling, though the majority did not have a Clean Label Program in their district. Also, the report ranked highest and lowest ingredients of concern.

The report also gave an overview of survey respondents’ interest in, and access to, Minnesota value added food products, while offering insight into various barriers to incorporating these products into school lunch programs.

Potentially, information from this report could help entrepreneurs and producers avoid known pitfalls and be more directly successful in getting Minnesota grown products to a large and consistent consumer base. To obtain a copy of this report, visit auri.org/schoollunch

New Options for Heating Commercial Poultry Barns

This study, conducted in cooperation with Minnesota Clean Action Resource Teams, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, and Viking Company of Albany, MN, investigated potential advantages of burning biomass, rather than using Liquid Propane gas, to heat commercial poultry barns. It resulted in a demonstration project and report, titled Advantages of Wood Heat for Commercial Poultry Production.

The report covers the field testing of a 1.65 million Btu (British Thermal Unit) wood chip furnace in a live commercial poultry operation over the course of 23 months and 12 flock rotations.

Viking Company, an experienced poultry growing operation, hosted and operated the wood furnace in its two-story broiler chicken barn. An identical barn, heated with liquid propane and immediately adjacent to the test barn, served as an experimental control to observe differences in operability, fuel costs, and
flock production.

The report includes a number of elements, which investigators studied in the pursuit of determining the efficacy of the biomass heat source. This included observable fuel cost savings against historically low liquid propane prices from fall 2015 through summer 2017. As expected, fuel cost savings from using woody biomass were highest in the colder months when thermal demand is greatest. The fuel cost savings from this project averaged $8,029 per year with liquid propane prices fluctuating from $0.99 to $1.29 per gallon.

Viking Company and its processor, GNP Companies (now Pilgrim’s Pride), also observed flock production benefits beyond the estimated wood fuel cost savings, indicating the wood furnace may contribute to reduced production losses.

Overall, this project and the final report provided detailed insight into the use of wood heat to meet the thermal needs of poultry production. The data collected demonstrates woody biomass is a viable, cost-effective fuel for producers looking for alternatives to liquid propane.

A complete report on this topic is available at auri.org/poultryheat

Food Pricing

The third report released by AURI dealt with a much different topic—one that is supremely important to food entrepreneurs yet isn’t defined well enough during the product’s development or the run-up to launch.

In food, the primary objective of the pricing exercise has long been “covering the cost.” The thinking behind this exercise is that ‘without knowing what your offering costs to make it available to your consumers, you can’t know how much money you need to make a profit.’ However, food businesses of all sizes must turn that statement on its head.

Without knowing the value of your offering relative to other available options, and thus how much you can charge for that value, you can’t know what product, channel, distribution and
other costs you should incur to make a profit.

While making sure that covering the costs-of-good-sold is a good management practice, it doesn’t fully inform food entrepreneurs about options to optimize cost structure and maximize their gross profits. This report and the exercises contained within it help entrepreneurs determine the best approach to pricing products
for their go-to-market journey.

For a copy of this report or its accompanying recorded webinar, visit auri.org/pricinginnovation

Protein Study

In recent years, protein ingredients have gained prominence in the food industry. So much so, the expected global demand for protein ingredients is projected to grow from $25.62 billion in 2016 to $48.77 billion by 2025. Much of this growth is due to the escalating consumer awareness and demand of for healthy foods. In fact, recent studies have shown protein content is the number one item consumers look for on a nutrition label, with greater than fifty percent wanting more protein in their diet.

Plant proteins are an emerging source, with some utilized in the marketplace; meanwhile food producers and entrepreneurs seek information on the nutritional, physiological and functional characteristics of these proteins. Thus, there was a need to understand the potential of these protein sources to deliver optimal nutrition and functionality. Combined with the fact that traditional protein sources may not be able to meet the growing future demand, AURI conducted a study of novel plant protein sources, entitled A Report on Minnesota Plant Based Proteins for Food.

The report summarizes current knowledge, advantages, and barriers to assess the production feasibility and utilization. This includes information on plant protein sources currently available (commercially produced), emerging (researched and likely to be on the market in the near future), or potentially viable (those with minimal research, but show promise) sources of proteins. It also offers some in-depth information related to best uses and levels of potential each plant-based protein source offers, with the end goal of providing basic information to help Minnesota entrepreneurs explore the potential of utilizing various regional plant protein sources in food applications to address the growing market demand for such products. Another important section of the report covers information about nutritional quality, currently available ingredient forms, functionality and applications, advantages, and barriers to assess the feasibility of its production and utilization for each protein source.

To obtain a copy of this report, visit auri.org/plantproteins

If you are interested in learning more about working with AURI or have a question about the research or findings in these reports, please contact AURI at 218.281.7600.