Opportunities are often disguised as problems — a need for something new or improved.

Every year, AURI staff meet with leaders in agriculture, business and economic development to understand their challenges, priorities and needs. If a need matches AURI’s mission, an initiative may be designed.

“This is our means of addressing industry-wide concerns,” says Michael Sparby, AURI project director. AURI initiatives “help us to stay up-to-date and on the cutting edge of development.”

In 2008, AURI staff held 47 stakeholder meetings, more than any other year. These face-to-face discussions help build relationships and identify value-added opportunities. The resulting initiatives aren’t tied to any commercial partner.

“Given the current high crop prices, this year’s initiatives reflect an increase in livestock and dairy activity,” along with helping processors add value to their products, Sparby says.

“These industry-wide initiatives have become increasingly important,” says AURI Executive Director Teresa Spaeth. “In striving to be innovative, we partner with our stakeholders to see around corners and be proactive in identifying the next opportunity.”

Unlike proprietary projects with existing or emerging businesses, knowledge gained through AURI initiatives is available to the public. The information is disseminated through reports, meetings and presentations.