As consumer demands change, growers have learned to adapt to meet their needs. At the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute’s (AURI) 2019 New Uses Forum, innovation was the topic of discussion across all aisles. This two-day event in Minneapolis brought together entrepreneurs from across the country to network and talk about innovation.
“This event is so important in today’s consumer cycle,” said Ron Obermoller, AURI chair and director with the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (MSR&PC). “It is hard for entrepreneurs to get their businesses or ideas off the ground, and this forum was a great place for everyone to connect and share resources for success.
The event showcased highly anticipated speakers, including former Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsak, who now serves as CEO of the United States Dairy Export Council, along with Rajiv Singh, former CEO of RaboBank North America. Both spoke to the importance of rural America and the need for innovation to make agricultural products into resources consumers want.
“People do not understand the importance of rural America,” Vilsak said. “We need to help our country create a vision for rural America, because with that vision, rural America will be able to have economic growth and political understanding.”
He also adds that rural America makes up 72 percent of the United States land mass, but only 250,000 farm families are doing the work to help feed and clothe the world.
This understanding of the need for continued development of products and services in the food and agricultural sectors is why this forum was created, says MSR&PC Director Jim Willers.
“Rural America is struggling with our current economy,” says Jim Willers, who chairs MSR&PC’s new uses action team. “This is why it is so important to find new ways to use our products that still meet the demands of the consumer.”
Throughout the two-day event, breakout and educational sessions encouraged participants to connect with resources and share experience with other attendees. Topics included finance and international opportunities, renewable energy, local and regional resources, cover crops, and industrial hemp. Many projects supported by the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (MSR&PC) were highlighted, including the proposed Soy Innovation Campus and High Oleic Soybean Oil. MSR&PC CEO Tom Slunecka spoke about the latest soybean checkoff investments and innovations on a panel alongside other commodity groups.
“MSR&PC continues to support and encourage the development of these new uses,” Willer says. “We are always finding ways to increase the profitability of Minnesota soybean farmers and these entrepreneurs are coming up with ideas to do just that.”
MSR&PC was a gold sponsor of the event and partners with AURI to develop value-added agricultural products.