Agriculture is a $5 billion industry for Connecticut according to a study by Farm Credit East. Food-producing sectors of agriculture, which exclude industries such as forestry or floriculture, account for more than $3.2 billion in annual revenue. When factoring in businesses that use raw materials acquired in-state and/or out-of-state, the total economic impact of all food manufacturing in Connecticut exceeds $8.3 billion.
Despite making up a hefty share of the state’s economy, at present, Connecticut’s food entrepreneurs do not have a resource to help them establish and innovate with their small businesses.
The University of Connecticut (UConn) is exploring the creation of a Center for Agriculture and Food Innovation to help businesses in this sector. This center will support startups and established food manufacturers, farm-based or otherwise, looking to expand and innovate with their products.
“UConn is a committed partner in the state’s goals – from economic development to preparing a workforce for the future,” says Interim President Radenka Maric. “This Center could serve as another opportunity for UConn to support growing Connecticut businesses.”
UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR) is leading efforts related to the potential Center and this effort to gain feedback from the business community through this survey.
“In many ways, UConn already serves as a central resource on both agricultural science and business,” says Dean Indrajeet Chaubey from the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. “We’re looking to expand our efforts to help food entrepreneurs succeed and support economic development in the state.”
This work is a collaboration between CAHNR, the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, and the UConn School of Business.
“This would be the next step in integrating key systems to accelerate business growth while engaging agricultural producers and food manufacturers,” says Agriculture Commissioner Bryan P. Hurlburt of Connecticut Department of Agriculture. “Providing the resources and training in this manner will not only beneficially impact the producers and manufacturers, but our food system and communities as a whole.”
The team behind this effort has developed a survey for food manufacturers, including pet food companies, wineries, and breweries to assess their needs and help inform the development of a potential innovation center.
The survey will take approximately five to 10 minutes and can be completed on a smart phone, computer, or other device with internet access.
UConn seeks to expand support for food-focused businesses in product development, quality control, entrepreneurship training, navigating regulatory requirements, and other R&D needs, says Chaubey.
“CAHNR is committed to the development of a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food system. These efforts are an extension of our ongoing mission to serve residents and businesses in our state,” says Chaubey.
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