NC Food Innovation Lab: We've Launched
January 15, 2020And just like that. We’re open for business!
Of course, the opening of the NC Food Innovation Lab (NCFIL) was six years in the making, and on this day of celebration, it definitely showed. From the welcoming staff to the shiny new equipment, NCFIL impressed its Open House attendees on Thursday, November 14, 2019.
According to NCFIL Executive Director Dr. Bill Aimutis, "We've been overwhelmed by the response from potential clients, following the networking and media coverage from the NCFIL Open House. In just one week, our team fielded 30 calls, ranging from entrepreneurs to international corporations. The event positioned us one step closer to fulfilling the expectations of the NCFIL visionaries and stakeholders."
Adding to the development of the NC Research Campus, NCFIL hosted a program, ribbon cutting and facility tour during its recent official launch. Over 250 attendees heard notable speakers promote the value of NCFIL partnerships and the future impact of this lab; they then explored the 16,000 sq. ft. plant-based food processing and product development facility.
NC Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler opened the ceremony sharing NCFIL’s history and praising the partnership of NCDA&CS and NCFIL. Troxler stated, “Our state could potentially see the addition of 38,000 jobs and $10.3 billion in economic benefits over 10 years. The Food Innovation Lab is going to allow us to build on North Carolina’s existing strengths in agriculture and agribusiness.”
Dean Richard H. Linton of the NC State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences also spoke about NCFIL’s partnerships, explaining they “create a new engine, maximizing our efforts to recruit this growing industry and provide the innovation and education the industry needs for success.”
The theme of partnership continued with the comments from Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest and Assistant Secretary of Rural Economic Development Kenny Flowers. Flowers said, “Economic development is...the ultimate team sport, and it really takes a strong team to make things happen.”
NCFIL would never have been achieved without the support of our legislature, Troxler noted before introducing Senator Paul Newton and Rep. Linda Johnson. Newton exclaimed, “We are second to none in agricultural production.” He then asked, “So, do we rest on our laurels? No, what you do is build a food innovation lab. You continue to get better and better and better.”
Other speakers included EDPNC Board Chairman Frank Emory, Jr., Golden LEAF Foundation President Scott Hamilton, and VP of Operations for Castle & Cooke NC Mark Spitzer, who said “the Food Innovation Lab is the most significant step the NCRC has taken in the last 11 years.”
Troxler closed the program with enthusiasm: “This is a great day for North Carolina, a great day for agriculture, a great day for the department, and a great day for NC State. It couldn’t get any better!”
Following the ribbon cutting, attendees moved through the facility talking with NCFIL staff, browsing displays and being “wowed” by new equipment. Dr. Jonathan Baugher, Vice President of Research & Sales at Blue Mountain Flavors, manned one of the displays; he said, “As a large-scale flavor manufacturer, we hope to work with start-up companies or entrepreneurs who work with NCFIL.”
Also in attendance was Dr. Katie Maloney, who works in Technical Business Development for Novozymes, another partner who will “provide enzymes for NCFIL’s ingredient library.” Other companies with displays included Sinnovatek, MicroThermics, MG Newell, Buhler and Armfield.
Based on the Open House energy, NCFIL is destined to be the innovative hub for plant-based food research and food manufacturing, serving local, regional and global communities.