During the annual New Uses Forum, the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI) arranged an impressive lineup of speakers and panel discussions centered around this year’s focus of “Exploring the Intersection of Sustainability, Innovation and Investment in Food and Agriculture.”
Right out of the gate, the Ag Innovation Campus received special recognition from Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan during her opening comments on Wednesday. Throughout the 2022 Legislative Session, farmer leaders from the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association have met with legislative leaders, including Gov. Tim Walz, to advocate for the Campus in Crookston, which continues construction later this spring.
“The Ag Innovation Campus will secure Minnesota’s reputation as a national leader in agriculture,” Flanagan said. “We believe this project will do incredible work and are excited for the opportunities this will bring.”
Wednesday’s keynote address was given virtually by Jocelyn G. Brown Hall with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. In her address, Hall dived into the UN’s sustainable development goals and the impact on the future of ag innovation. The rest of the day was filled with panel discussions on sourcing and raising capital, bioindustrial materials and Minnesota entrepreneur spotlights.
The day was concluded with the presentation of the Ag Innovator of the Year Award, which has been presented since 2002. This year, the honor went to NewStarch Solutions, co-founded by Dean Bartels, Don Niles and Matt Niles.
Dr. Karama Neal of USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service kicked off the second day of the Forum by explaining the rural development priorities: COVID-19 impacts, equity and climate impacts. Neal showcased the many programs available through the USDA to aid small agriculture businesses and agricultural producers.
Wrapping up the Forum on Thursday, acting AIC CEO Tom Slunecka spoke during the MN Food and Ag Ecosystems Highlights panel, explaining the facility and what it will mean for the state, including researchers, producers and local economies.
“It’s a not-for-profit. It’s a crush plant. It’s a research facility,” said Slunecka, who’s also CEO of Ag Management Solutions, which oversees both MSGA and the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council. “It’s all of the things you need to get through that ‘valley of death.’”
After Slunecka’s AIC presentation, the event concluded with a final networking lunch.