Frequently Asked Questions

Have questions about AURI’s mission, structure, processes or resources? We’ve heard them all … and answered most of them on this page.

General

AURI is an acronym for Agricultural Utilization Research Institute.

AURI is a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation created by the Minnesota state legislature.

AURI works to foster long-term economic benefit through value-added agricultural products.

Value-added agriculture is the practice of creating new uses for, or value improvements to raw agricultural commodities. For example, rather than selling raw corn and receiving the market price, a producer may provide corn to a farmer-owned ethanol processing plant, receive the market price plus additional dividends from the sale of the ethanol produced from that corn. Value has then been added to that corn, making it more profitable than when it is sold as a raw commodity.

We work with individual entrepreneurs, businesses, cooperatives, commodity groups and farm organizations that have ideas for new uses to benefit Minnesota producers.

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While we are an independent nonprofit corporation, AURI is funded, in part by the Minnesota Legislature. In addition, AURI receives funding from project fees and charitable gifts made by individuals and companies.

We provide a wide range of services from new product development and feasibility assistance to assessing business and marketing needs. Our work focuses on four core areas: foodrenewable energybiobased products, and coproducts.

Yes, AURI charges project fees for services. Fees are on a sliding scale, determined by a company’s annual revenue. For more information on AURI’s project fees, see service fee questions in next section.

Depending upon a projects focus and fit with the mission of AURI, financial support can be obtained in the form of grants. These grants require a one-to-one match. Initial Project Assessments require a one-to-one cash match, while Market Assessment Program recipients may provide cash, in-kind or a combination as the match.

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The best way to access AURI assistance is to contact the regional office nearest you. This first step allows staff to meet with clients directly and help assess needs. AURI offices are located in CrookstonMarshallSt. Paul and Waseca.

AURI programs are not intended for crop or livestock production. Programs are available to applicants who can demonstrate that their project will impact the use of existing agricultural commodities, alternative crops or livestock. All projects must show that they will benefit the state of Minnesota.

Since there can be a number of factors that determine program qualification, the first step you should take is to contact aharguth@auri.org. That initial contact with AURI staff will help determine your needs and match you up with the appropriate resources offered by AURI and our partnering organizations.

AURI works with a wide variety of small- and medium-sized agricultural-based businesses, including entrepreneurs who are just getting started as well as long-standing businesses with ideas of how to improve processes or create new products. AURI also collaborates closely with a variety of stakeholders, from commodity groups to rural development organizations.

If you have an idea for a new product or process relating to agricultural commodities or if you are looking for research or information related to our four focus areas—food, coproducts, renewable energy or biobased products—contact us.

Fill out the contact us form or contact one of our staff members. We look forward to working with you.

Project Service Fee Questions

To meet resource needs as AURI faces increasing industry demand and demand for its services, which it can no longer adequately meet with current funding sources.

Minnesota’s Office of the Legislative Auditor recommended AURI implement a project fee or fee for service model with its clients.  The recommendation aligns AURI with its statute language, which requires AURI to seek funds from other sources, including fee for service revenues.

AURI will consult with clients at no cost to determine project scope and mission fit.  AURI will also respond to basic questions from businesses and individuals without a fee until a project application and scope of work is formalized.  Also, AURI will continue to provide industry information to clients via public initiatives, downloadable research reports on its website, and via technical and innovation workshops conducted through its Innovative Networking Programs (a small event registration fee may apply).

Entities or individuals with no sales or budgeted revenue to $250,000 are billed a project fee up front at 20 percent cost share rate of anticipated project costs. Companies with sales or entities with budgeted revenue from $250,000 to $5 million are billed a project fee up front at 33 percent of anticipated costs. Entities in the, $5 million to $100 million category are billed at 50 percent of anticipated costs billed upon deliverable as a fee for service. Companies exceeding $100 million in sales will be billed 100 percent of AURI’s full cost rate upon deliverable as a fee for service. All projects may be subject to a minimum project fee of $250.

A statement of work is a document stating the project objectives and deliverables to be completed.  A client will be provided a statement of work and an invoice, which specifies the agreed upon deliverable(s), the full project cost and client’s share of the cost to have AURI provide services to meet the deliverable(s).

AURI/client projects are research projects with no guarantee of success.  If AURI determines the deliverables are not achievable during the lifespan of the project and stops the project, the client may initiate discussions to seek a pro-rated reimbursement.  If the client ends the project due to what they feel is an unattainable result, the client may initiate discussions to determine if a pro-rated refund would apply.  Any refund request must be initiated by the client and will be determined on a project by project basis.

AURI is a non-profit corporation providing discounted rates to businesses to help advance their ideas.  If a client is not satisfied, with the project outcomes, AURI may refer the company to another entity to meet their needs.  AURI will be clear upfront on expectations of project challenges and timing before beginning a project with a client so that a well-informed decision can be made.  Regular discussions between clients and AURI are important during the course of a project to ensure timeliness and deliverable expectations are understood and being met by both AURI and the client.

AURI will consider all of the resources required to meet each client’s unique needs and deliverable(s) to estimate each project’s cost.  This could include several variables, but would mainly include the AURI staff time and resources dedicated to the project.  Each client will be billed for their portion of the total project costs according to the tiered framework based on the company’s estimated gross or budgeted revenue which will range from 20 percent of project cost to 100 percent

No, all project costs are quoted to the client at the beginning of the project based upon the agreed upon scope of work. The costs will not be changed.

AURI accepts and prefers payments via major credit cards on its PayPal account, but is open to discussing the use of purchase orders and business checks.

Wait times are dependent upon current workloads and resources available.  AURI will be upfront on timing and expectations before a project begins to ensure it can meet the client’s timing needs.

Yes, AURI is open to discussing an ongoing technical services agreement through a defined retainer type model that provides regular monthly payments for agreed upon ongoing technical services.

A project development employee will thoroughly discuss AURI capabilities and services with each client to determine if AURI services are a fit.  Additionally, descriptions of AURI’s capabilities are listed on its website – www.auri.org

No, you will still have discussions with project staff prior to filling out an AURI application to confirm project fit with AURI’s mission and to ensure AURI can provide the desired services. A noticeable change will be the requirement for a client to provide payment for the percentage of the quoted project cost.

Frequently Asked Food Questions

Clients can work one-on-one with AURI’s food scientists in our food development kitchen to review and/or reformulate products or processes (the development kitchen is located in AURI’s Marshall, MN facility). In keeping with the AURI mission, our technical and business development staff can provide guidance and suggest connections to available local ingredient sources. However, AURI does not provide complete concept to commercialization food product development services.

AURI scientists provide nutrition fact labels based on calculated values. The nutrient values are based on compiled data on ingredient nutrition from a number of databases including the USDA National database. The nutrition facts labels are generally quite accurate given the large pool of data housed in these databases. Occasionally we may also use lab analyses to confirm some of the calculated values (for example, sodium content).
For a brief primer that shows necessary elements for labeling a food product for sale see: Minnesota Department of Health

Note: AURI’s food lab is neither A2LA nor ISO certified.  As such, the data we generate cannot be used to validate federally-regulated on-pack claims, such as “Good source of protein.”  It can, however, be used to provide guidance during development of such products.  Additionally, AURI cannot use analytical analyses to calculate a Nutrition Facts label given the limited capability and capacity to analyze for all required nutrients.

For certified lab results or label claims see:

Medallion Labs: https://www.medallionlabs.com/our-services/

RTech Labs: https://www.rtechlabs.com/rtechlabs/media/Others/Pricelist-2017-rtech-booklet_4.pdf

Minnesota Valley Testing Laboratories: http://www.mvtl.com/Services/FoodScience

AURI offers lab analyses for food components. Services include % fat, protein, moisture, ash, and carbohydrates, total sugars, mineral analysis (proximate analysis). If necessary, these analyses may confirm AURI’s nutrition calculations for nutrition facts labels.

In addition to the proximate analysis, other analytical services include: alcohol, caffeine, amino acid, and fatty acids. AURI is continually updating its analytical abilities and if an analytical service is not listed, we invite you to contact AURI to discuss your needs.

Note: AURI’s food lab is neither A2LA nor ISO certified. As such, the data we generate cannot be used to validate federally-regulated on-pack claims, such as “Good source of protein.” It can, however, be used to provide guidance during development of such products. Additionally, AURI cannot use analytical analyses to calculate a Nutrition Facts label given the limited capability and capacity to analyze for all required nutrients.

 For certified lab results or label claims see:
Medallion Labs
Minnesota Valley Testing Laboratories
Market Fresh Food Testing Laboratory

AURI technical staff can provide general guidance and assistance in navigating food regulations. Some examples of regulation guidance and assistance include general safety, labeling, licenses, and inspections. AURI will work with you to provide business and product guidance specific to your needs that help further your goals. Regulatory Websites: FDA: https://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/default.htm USDA: https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/regulations MDA: https://www.mda.state.mn.us/food/safety/food-safety-resources.aspx MDH: http://www.health.state.mn.us/foodsafety/
Licensing: http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/food/license/ http://www.mda.state.mn.us/licensing/licensetypes/foodhandler.aspx

AURI can review your recipe and help you convert it into a formula, when necessary. The process of converting a formula includes measuring the weight of each ingredient and calculating percentages to get a total formula weight of 100%. This would be the first step in standardizing the recipe.

Scaling up a recipe for standardized production varies greatly depending on the product and process. An AURI scientist will review the information and provide guidance on production options (e.g., commercial kitchen, co-packer or your production space).

Once you have determined your production scale, it is essential to document the “how” related to making your product.  The purpose of this documentation is to provide a “how to” guide that will ensure product consistency from both a consumer experience (taste, texture) and food safety perspective. 

Once you have initiated a project and received confirmation on the next steps regarding your project from AURI’s Program Specialist, you’ll be asked to complete the Nutritional Panel Request form if the project includes one or more of these services:

Review and/or reformulate products or processes

Nutrition facts label

Recipe

Review

Conversion

Reformulation

scale up

standardization

Information needed to prepare the form include product name, formula or recipe, preparation method, thermal process or cook method, serving size, weight of one serving, net weight of total sell unit, product detail and claims or comments. This information helps us determine the ingredients and equipment needed to plan your lab development work.

A general confidentiality agreement is included in the application for an AURI project.  If food clients at the 20 and 33 percent cost-share levels would like a specific non-disclosure agreement (NDA), they will be asked to use AURI’s attorney approved NDA. This will save time and allow AURI to quickly begin work. Note that the term of the AURI confidentiality agreement and NDA are set at 3 years, allowing a client ample time to protect any intellectual property created. Rest assured, though, that any intellectual property and trade secrets are confidential and will not be shared at any time. AURI is a nonprofit organization with a desire to see clients succeed and move forward.  As we are funded primarily by the state of Minnesota, AURI is required to report outcomes and impacts to the state legislature.  Your basic company information may be used to supplement our annual reporting to the state of Minnesota.  (Confidential information such as recipe, process, and marketing plans would, of course, be exempted from this reporting requirement).  In general, we take our lead from the client regarding what can be shared (public use details and anything you would share publicly through your own website, promos, or articles).

AURI does not directly offer process authority review.  However, AURI scientists can get you started by assessing your current process for food safety compliance and product categorization. If a process authority is needed (for example, if you have an acidified product), we can direct you to the appropriate process authority resources.

A product’s shelf life can best be described as the amount of time, under typical storage conditions, a product can:

Be safely consumed. This is the product’s Microbiological Stability.

Best represent the manufacturer’s intended product quality experience (i.e., taste, texture, appearance, etc.). This is the product’s Quality Shelf Life.

A product’s shelf life should represent the shorter of the above 2 components.

AURI can provide excellent guidance and guidelines on defining your product’s shelf life, but does not have the capability to definitively determine.  Because a product’s shelf life is both difficult and time consuming to define, please contact us to discuss your individual project goals.

AURI’s analytical lab can test for Aw, % moisture, pH, and basic microbiological counts, including Total Plate Count, Total Coliform Bacteria, and Total Yeast and Mold spores. Results will assist us in assessing the stability and potential shelf life of the product.

Note:  AURI does not test for human pathogens, e.g., E.coli, salmonella, listeria, etc. For these tests, contact information to relevant labs such as:

Market Fresh Food Testing Laboratory: http://www.marketfreshlabs.com/

 “Universal product codes — UPCs — are the 12-digit numbers that appear under the barcodes on many U.S. products. They are given out by GS1 US, a nonprofit group that sets standards for international commerce.”  Wall Street Journal How-To Guide

AURI does not offer UPC registration services.  You can purchase a unique UPC from GS1 US directly, or from a UPC reseller.  However, if you intend to use a reseller for cost reasons, be advised that 6 stores (Target, Lowe’s, Home Depot, WalMart, Federated Group and Kroger’s) will not accept UPC’s purchased from a reseller.

GS1 US: https://www.gs1us.org/

com (recommended UPC reseller): https://buyabarcode.com/

First, look through our no cost and low cost service fee schedule at https://www.auri.org/help/projectfees/

Second, if you feel you’re ready to begin a project, we’ll look at the feasibility of the project. You may begin the process by completing AURI’s food project contact form.