The Center for Innovative Food Technology (CIFT) is a developer and provider of technical innovations and solutions for the food processing, agri-business, and agricultural sectors of the economy in our region, state, and beyond. <P>
These innovations and solutions are developed in order to enhance the economic performance of the food processing and agricultural sectors. In addition to its traditional constituencies comprised of Midwestern food processing establishments, CIFT includes growers, processors, marketers, and others involved in producing, adding value to, marketing, or distributing crops throughout the Midwest. <P>
The goal of the program was, and continues to be, to identify, evaluate, demonstrate, and promote opportunities for Midwestern agricultural operators to enhance their level of profitability by implementing new and innovative value-added agricultural endeavors. CIFT will build upon the past results and successes from previous years, and will also initiate new projects within its areas of focus. <P>
The operating objective for the Income Enhancement Demonstration is to develop, maintain, and implement a comprehensive outreach, extension, and demonstration program that promotes the implementation of opportunities for value added agricultural initiatives, with particular emphasis given to those with application throughout the Midwest. An additional focus is that they provide opportunities primarily for small and medium sized operators. <P>
The primary areas of focus will include, but not be limited to, the following: small scale production of specialty fruits and vegetables, increased consumption of local products within institutional markets, expansion of biobased product production, exploration of alternative energy crops, value-added food processing, evaluation and demonstration of local food system systems, food safety training, and CIFT will continue to evaluate, develop, demonstrate, and promote opportunities for small and medium sized producers to enhance their income by adopting innovative value added practices, products, or business models. Among these items are demonstrations of using collaboratively-owned minimal processing equipment to extend the season for local fruits and vegetables, and small scale production of specialty, high value crops for selected customers such as restaurants, specialty grocers, or others. An area of focus continues to be the production of high value crops with health benefits beyond nutrition that can be used as sources of ingredients for functional food products.
NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: Agriculture is a very significant part of total revenues in states like Ohio. For a variety of industry and societal reasons, the number of independent operations is declining in states like Ohio. This is a clear indication that efforts are needed to try to enhance income by developing new methods of generating revenue. Short term prices for grain crops have increased due to increased demand for them as feedstocks for biofuels, but many continue to believe that value added crops remain viable long term solutions. Economists point to the fact that other similar events in the past have led to short term price increases, but market mechanisms have led to increased supplies and lower prices. Additionally, many feel strongly that alternatives to corn and soybeans, such as palm oil, canola oil, switchgrass, and perhaps even algal-based oils will take over as primary feedstocks for ethanol and biodiesel. A program such as this assists in eliminating some of the unknown components and risk involved with a new business start up or expansion effort into a newly developed technology. By experiencing some of the shortcomings through the research and demonstration phases, entrepreneurs are equipped to enter the market at an accelerated rate. Diminishing resources and limited financial support, as realized in recent months, impacts the small and medium sized businesses and further accentuates the benefits of such a program. Each of the major focus areas which will be pursued represents an opportunity to develop viable, economically significant value added programs in the Midwestern region of the nation. The topics selected are the result of CIFT's knowledge of the industry and the economics of the region, of technology, and of the inputs of its Advisory Board, affiliate organizations, and other industry relationships.
APPROACH: Several topics were mentioned for evaluation and demonstration; therefore, a procedure will be implemented to determine which are appropriate for further investigation. Industry relevance and engagement are essential components of project identification. For this reason, an advisory committee will be solicited for feedback and insights on topic areas. This group will be compiled of a diverse representation of industry contacts and businesses for direct perspectives of technical and business issues. Topics will be identified or presented to CIFT and complete an initial review based on how the project aligns to the established mission and goals of the program. Provided that component is deemed appropriate, the concept will be presented to the committee for review. Based on knowledge and experience within the industry, the committee will provide direction and insights on what aspects to pursue, how to approach, and audience to target for the proposed topic area. Each concept will be evaluated based on the following criteria: potential for near term success, potential for new business enterprise development, economic and environmental sustainability, market demand, contribution towards job creation, transformative to local, regional, and national application, and low level of risk. Upon approval, the research, technical investigations, and demonstration components will be initiated. Demonstration techniques will be utilized to portray methods of production and processing that will enhance small to medium sized businesses while also supporting the demand for local, safe, and healthy products. Results will be disseminated in a variety of ways including but not limited to, direct contact with growers and businesses, publications, electronic media, seminars, events, and collaborations with other industry organizations.