Ag Innovation Update-April 2016
Latest Ag Innovation News online     
USDA announces Value Added Producer grants 

USDA announced it is accepting applications for the Value Added Producer grant (VAPG) to help fund activities related to feasibility studies, business plans, capital expenditures for processing, and marketing value-added agricultural products. Generating new products, creating and expanding marketing opportunities, and increasing producer income are the goals of this program.

Get to know a Food Industry Thought Leader 

Industry thought leaders are influential individuals across Minnesota's food industry meeting with AURI to discuss new food ideas for entrepreneurs, educators and businesses to foster innovation and economic growth.  

As part of the Food Industry Thought Leaders, AURI will feature a get to know you column in Ag Innovation Update. 
Name: Tonya Schoenfuss, University of Minnesota

Why did you choose to work in the food industry?
I made up my mind in high school when I raised goats and dairy replacement heifers that I wanted to be involved in the dairy industry.  My undergraduate degree in Dairy Products Technologies from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo clinched it for me as I really enjoy the science of food, and the processing environment. 
What do you like most about working in the food industry?
The people. I have a lot of friends at different companies. It is a very friendly business.
I also love working with food products and commercializing them. It is exciting.
What are the greatest opportunities you see right now in the food industry?
Clean-ingredient formulations that meet cost and shelf-life expectations of companies, and taste attributes of consumers.

What are the greatest challenges?
Workforce needs - I think the experience base of many companies is eroding so there is a lack of skilled labor. Food Safety - there are many changes that are coming in regulations and there are new challenges that crop up.

Research funding - Publically traded companies keep cutting back on their corporate research, and the government has as well. Teaching, Research and Extension faculty numbers are declining along with grant funding, so there are less PhD's being graduated from the US institutions. This puts the US at a disadvantage to other countries that are funding research. And for our state, a lack of extension resources is detrimental to entrepreneurs as well.  

What has been the most interesting thing that has happened to you while working in the
food industry?
I was "Riding with the King" on a flight back from a plant trip in Brazil. B.B. King was sitting in the seat directly front of me on a flight.  For a few seconds while walking down the aisle, I thought I was sitting next to him. I guess you've got to be a blues fan to understand why I found that so cool.

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Foster long-term economic benefit for Minnesota through value-added agricultural products.