CIFT provides the following services for food processors:
Food Safety Consulting
CIFT's expert network of food scientists offers a full range of food safety services to food processors through microbiological consulting and testing, food safety auditing, and food safety and quality training. We also help processors develop food product handling practices and procedures, including worker hygiene and sanitation practices.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lists recalls, withdrawals and alerts on their website, which includes the most significant product actions of the last 60 days, based on the extent of distribution and the degree of health risk. Learn more about the latest FDA food recall notices.
The Ohio MEP is a regional effort coordinated by CIFT which combines resources from Ohio entities located at Northwest State Community College (Archbold) and Rhodes State College (Lima), who serve as partners in delivering valuable services to manufacturers within a 19 county territory.
The Ohio MEP offices serve as partners in delivering valuable services to manufacturers across Ohio. Plus, staff has resources available beyond northwest Ohio through other Ohio MEP partners. Click here to learn more.
Expanding Processing Techniques
Ohio is at the epicenter for advanced food processing and packaging technologies. Application of these techniques will result in the production of higher quality food products, improved safety, and reduced use of chemical preservatives, appealing to consumer preferences for cleaner labels and minimally processed foods.
Market forces, consumer preferences, and government regulations are creating shifts in the types of products and packaging. Click here to learn more about High Pressure Processing, "Stand-Up" Retort Pouches, and "Next Generation" Aseptic Packaging.
CIFT has access to a continuously updated collection of market research information with more than 300,000 reports from 700 leading global publishers. With this tool, assistance can be offered to Ohio food companies on new product trends, the latest in packaging, emerging ethnic foods, or competitive analysis of new or existing markets. Such information is critical to maintaining a competitive edge in new and established markets.
Through this service, general reports associated with trend and industry data on a product category can be obtained. Contact CIFT to learn more about gaining access to this information as a tool for business enhancement and market evaluation.
Examples of reports include the following:
- Strategies for Managing Food and Drink Flavor Portfolios, July 2015
- Flavor Appeal in Yogurt, July 2015
- Ingredients Across FMCG - What Consumers Are Saying, July 2015
- Ancient Grains: Bakery and Beyond, July 2015
Product and Package Development
New and emerging technologies in the areas of food processing, preservation and packaging are widespread. CIFT's network of food scientists and business advisors work with industry and academia to bring innovations to the marketplace, helping food processors optimize their operations.
Technology Development & Prototyping
CIFT collaborates with a variety of food equipment manufacturers to develop prototype equipment for evaluation and commercialization. By tapping into available resources, food based companies can benefit from new equipment applications and technologies and, ultimately, enhance their competitiveness within the marketplace.
Extending your team of engineers when the need arises, CIFT provides engineering assistance to food equipment companies on a project-by-project basis.
CIFT leads the way in the commercialization of several newly patented technologies. Our equipment partners play a critical role in the commercialization process by exploring, designing, building and helping to market the novel equipment. As a result, equipment manufacturers develop new relationships and generate additional business revenue.
Utilizing a network of university researchers, government agencies, and industry suppliers, CIFT actively pursues research opportunities with an emphasis on potential commercial interest. Many of these applications involve connecting equipment manufacturers to develop pilot plant equipment with the ultimate goal of product and process commercialization.
Waste Reduction & Remediation
CIFT's staff of engineers specializes in identifying Pollution Prevention (P2) initiatives that have a positive impact on bottom line financials. CIFT helps reduce the adverse impacts of wastewater and manage process wastes and by-products, including reducing the impact of wastewater discharge through innovative treatment and/or reuse of process water. Our expertise includes environmental regulatory compliance that relates to wastewater discharge, air emissions, storm water, pollution prevention plans, and spill prevention control plans.
Energy Efficiency Consulting
Energy usage and efficiency is a priority issue for greenhouse operators. CIFT’s staff of engineers performs energy use assessments to identify energy efficiency and cost savings opportunities through implementation of energy efficient equipment, controls and processes. An Energy Usage and Cost Analysis includes power rate structures, tariff analysis, as well as electrical usage and demand trend analysis. Feasibility, program development and implementation recommendations are essential in successful energy efficiency improvements.
CIFT Signs Landmark Agreement with USDA-ARS
The Center for Innovative Food Technology (CIFT) signed a historic agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS), establishing CIFT as one of only ten members of the USDA-ARS Agricultural Technology Innovation Partnership (ATIP) program. An official signing ceremony of the Partnership Intermediary Agreement (PIA) was held in Toledo on Aug. 16, 2010.
The PIA was signed by Richard J. Brenner, ARS assistant administrator for technology transfer, and CIFT president and CEO David Beck.
"This agreement will foster opportunities for businesses, communities and universities in the Midwest to collaborate with ARS scientists who are conducting world-class research at more than 100 locations nationwide," Brenner said. "By partnering with organizations like CIFT, we are developing efficient networks that will extend the reach and impact of ARS innovations that will ultimately benefit consumers."
"This agreement is an exciting milestone for CIFT," Beck said. "We are part of a select few who are joining forces with ARS to provide the many organizations with which we work easy access to the nation's premier agricultural scientists. This means that many patented technologies will be commercialized by our clients, creating job growth and enhancing our region's economy."
The PIA provides CIFT's customers, members and businesses with easy access to the work and capabilities of more than 2,100 agricultural scientists throughout the nation – which in turn can greatly enhance economic development and global competitiveness.
This access provides significant, tangible benefits in two areas:
• CIFT's status as an ATIP Associate creates connections between CIFT and hundreds of patented technologies in food processing, biobased materials and products, advanced growing techniques, agricultural chemicals and supplements, and many others. There are currently hundreds of technologies that have been developed and patented by ARS scientists which are available for licensing.
• Another equally significant benefit will be realized by the large number of technology-based companies and research organizations with whom CIFT interacts, enabling these groups to become aware of technologies which are being developed at ARS labs that may be of interest to them. This involves CIFT client organizations in cooperative research efforts with ARS, leading to both a strengthening of the USDA programs, and the development of more technology-focused economic opportunities.
In addition to these immediate benefits, this arrangement connects CIFT to some of the leading technology-based economic development groups in the country.
Each partner will work primarily with ARS laboratories located in their respective regions of the country, but will have access to scientists and technologies throughout the network, as well as to commercialization partners throughout the nation. CIFT will work initially with scientists located within the eight-state region of the ARS Midwest Area.
The members in the national ATIP network are:
• Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority (PA)
• Innovate Mississippi
• Kansas Bioscience Authority
• California Association for Local Economic Development
• Wisconsin Security Research Consortium
• Maryland Technology Development Corporation
• Georgia Research Alliance
As part of its agreement, CIFT will sponsor technology showcases throughout Ohio, and will identify research and commercialization partners within its network of companies and organizations. CIFT will identify project opportunities in the areas of functional foods and ingredients, biobased products, biofuels, and sustainable agriculture. The sustainable agriculture area will include local and regional food production, where CIFT will work with ARS to develop programs of mutual interest to provide support in this relatively new area.
ARS is a leader in the federal government in transferring and marketing new technologies developed from its research, and has formed numerous partnerships using cooperative agreements. More information about opportunities for licensing ARS technologies is available on the ARS-OTT website.
If you are interested in learning more about future technologies and ways in which your business/organization can partner, CIFT will be happy to connect you with scientists from the ARS. Please visit our Contact page and let us know.
U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Partnering
ARS continually looks for opportunities to partner with businesses, other federal agencies, state and local governments, and universities. These partnerships are designed to augment research programs, expedite research results to the private sector, exchange information and knowledge, stimulate new business and economic development, enhance U.S. trade, preserve the environment, and improve the quality of life for all Americans. The overarching purpose of this activity is to develop and transfer technologies to the private sector. ARS can partner with the above parties in three ways, Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADA), Research partnerships, and licensing. Learn more about partnering by clicking here.
CIFT provides technical solutions to Local Food Systems and Urban programs. We help our clients with emerging technologies, industry best practices, and novel business approaches. Our business advisors and food scientists work with food processors, industry equipment manufacturers, university researchers and government agencies on food safety and quality, new product and package development, and small business development and training.
Although traditionally engaged in the processing and end product aspects of the food industry, CIFT also studies enhanced growing practices. One such growing practice is the hoop house. Made of galvanized steel arches covered with polyethylene plastic, hoop houses are typically temporary frames with no permanent foundation. The structures also feature adjustable side vents which provide a cheaper means of temperature control than traditional mechanical means. A hoop house can be constructed in various sizes that are conducive to growing different vegetables.
Hoop houses provide an economical way to increase profits and maintain a competitive advantage in the marketplace, use minimal land area, and use less energy than traditional greenhouse structures.
Click here to view a detailed report on hoop house planning, and click here for a video on the construction of a hoop house.
CIFT investigates alternative growing practices and methods allowing for unique production capacities for increased food production. One such example relates to a high density vertical growing system designed for non-traditional production locations. The system enables plants to grow in significantly smaller spaces and in varying ground covers from concrete to parking lots. The production potential can reach 1,500-2,000 pounds of strawberries per season to 1,500-2000 heads of lettuce per month.
A vertical system can be constructed in various sizes from four stacks equating to 80 plants, or upwards to a design for thousands of plants. The common reference is that in one acre this system supports plants that would traditionally require eight acres of farm land. The options are endless from a small scale farm operation to research to commercial production or backyard gardening without soil. The vegetables or flowers are grown in a coconut potting medium with the primary purpose of holding moisture and maintaining the root base. The plants use a hydroponic system enabling nutrient application to the plants. Any vegetables can be grown with the exception of root crops.
Installed injectors allow for automatic watering by accessing barrels of a water and nutrient mixture. Rows can be upwards of 75 feet long to utilize the pressure compensated emitters. A typical commercial operation includes 96 towers of five pots high, with 12 towers per row equating to approximately 29' x 48' ground cover and 2,100 plants. The layout can be expanded or modified to fit the space allotted.
Due to the hydroponic application and the design of the towers which swivel on a plate, the labor input is very minimal. Upon completion of the construction elements, weekly monitoring of the water and nutrient supply is required. Minimal weeding is necessary. The bulk of the labor involves the harvesting of the produce upon maturity.
The vertical system is constructed outside and therefore susceptible to natural elements and standard growing seasons. However, it can be constructed within a greenhouse or hoop house structure to extend the season. An additional element to this unit involves the inclusion of an ozone generator. Occasionally a water source may not be appropriate for plant growth due to sulfur or similar elements. An ozone generator will eliminate the undesirable conditions and produce a clean water stream ensuring plant growth. The high density vertical system can be a cost effective alternative for food production.
Summers across the Midwest typically mean periods of severe heat and dry spells, often with temperatures above 90 degrees. There is a planting system that can almost always outstand this type of extreme heat, that is superior to typical grow bags. Grow Soxx, woven biodegradable knit socks, are manufactured to work in dry areas with the aid of drip irrigation system, or can be used in low areas where water collects. Either way, Grow Soxx will typically produce due to the utilization of the mesh enclosure that controls moisture and exposure to air on all sides (no anaerobic conditions), and can be grown virtually anywhere.
The Grow Soxx contain organic compost and soil encased in biodegradable knit socks that feed the plants with organic fertilizer and stop the spread of weeds. They can be used in a variety of areas where plants will not normally grow: contaminated soils, walkways, decks, and rooftops.
CIFT was first introduced to the Grow Soxx by the Filtrexx Company, and not long after four well-known restaurants in Toledo, Ohio, were selected for the Grow Soxx project. The Grow Soxx were planted by the project manager, and the owners of each restaurant were allowed to move the soxx to a space of their choice, to see if the plants could actually grow in unlikely environments. All participants were given a log book and asked to keep records of watering, movements, and harvest records.
Cherry/grape tomatoes and lettuce have been some of the bigger successes from the garden.
Our City in a Garden
Through an effort to help transform Toledo, Ohio, to "Our City in a Garden," CIFT worked with numerous partners, including Toledo GROWs and the University of Toledo, to create a model for an urban-based system to produce, prepare, process, preserve and distribute healthy and wholesome food products within the community, accomplishing these ends in a manner that stresses environmental sustainability.
The goal of this effort: Meet the increasingly acute need for nutritious foods in our cities, and in doing so, promote local production by local citizens.
To learn more about the vision, progress and future of the Our City in a Garden initiative, visit their website at ourcityinagarden.org.
Grow A Row
Fresh vegetables are an important part of any diet and should be available to all, including those in need of help at local food pantries throughout northwest Ohio. Thanks to the Grow a Row Project, both the Center for Innovative Food Technology (CIFT) and the Toledo Seagate Food Bank are proud of the many farmers and producers throughout the area who generously donated their field fresh fruits and vegetables to the hungry to ensure they have had access to these nutritious items.
With the Grow a Row Project, donations have been from large farms that have had too much product ripen at one time, down to the gardener who dropped off a bushel of fresh cucumbers and a box of ripe muskmelons. Every donation is appreciated; even fresh herbs and dried beans are collected by ambitious cooks at soup kitchens who wait all year for fresh items to come in their door.
Contact Seagate Foodbank of Northwest Ohio for more information.
CIFT provides the following services for entrepreneurs:
Small Business Assistance
CIFT has worked with small and start up companies since the center's inception in 1995. In conjunction with the Northwest Ohio Cooperative Kitchen (NOCK), CIFT provides product development guidelines, resources and marketing direction to entrepreneurs involved in the production of value-added food products. Technical capabilities, including nutritional analysis and shelf-life stability testing, ensure that the products are produced safely and properly.
CIFT hosts numerous educational programs at the NOCK facility that show participants how to establish a commercially viable food business. Our food technology center also helps food-based entrepreneurs with regulatory compliance involving local health departments and the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Information on packaging options, sourcing of ingredients and labeling offer a portfolio of knowledge to start up enterprises. One-on-one consultations with CIFT business advisors provide help with defining a viable plan to establish a profitable food business venture.
The NOCK provides an affordable venue in which to develop a concept into a commercially viable food product. The commercial kitchen facility combines business and technical assistance with production equipment to bridge the gap between an idea and reality.
The ability to network with other entrepreneurs, access information and take advantage of production capacity - all in one spot - minimizes the risk for a new food business venture.
For additional information, visit the Agricultural Incubator Foundation's site.
CIFT has held past food contests to promote many new local products ready to take that next step – actual product development. Past awards have been given in different parts of Ohio to educate and advise new and growing businesses on business planning, product/process development, shelf stability testing, labeling review, regulatory assistance, and batch product preparations for sampling. Learn more about our contests held in central, northeast, southwest, northwest Ohio and across the entire state of Ohio!
CIFT has a state-of-the-art freezer located at the NOCK, along with a blanching/freezing process, which helps explore new ways and benefits for freezing produce. This allows for testing of the process variations associated with different crops. The information is then provided to growers to assist with crop selection, as well as potential buyers searching for locally-produced product in the off season.
The cryogenic freezer uses liquid nitrogen as a medium to "flash freeze" product. A temperature as low as 50 below zero is achieved in a very short time which enables product nutrients (and other desired characteristics) to be captured immediately. This service is especially helpful for growers 1) with excess product at the end of the season, 2) wishing to grow more product for new clients, and 3) interested in expanding current crop selection.
Bon Appetit Program
For several years CIFT has partnered with Bon Appétit Management Company in delivering fresh produce to consumers in the off-season. Companies continue to explore methods in which to provide quality food products, support local growers, and enhance operations. By combining resources, CIFT and Bon Appétit have been able to deliver a solution through IQF (Individually Quick Frozen) processing of local crops. Thousands of pounds of produce have been frozen and integrated into menus of institutions in the winter months. Crops such as strawberries, green beans, corn, apples and more, have been processed. Each year this program provides another market for consideration by growers either currently producing the crops or interested in pursuing new items. This remains to be the case as the following crops are being considered:
CIFT works with start-up food processing companies through its association with several midwest incubator facilities. Through these relationships, we have learned that limited distribution resources represent a major barrier to growth for small processors.
By linking small producers on a regional basis, multiple companies can synergize their distribution efforts. Utilizing backhauls and consolidating shipments, for instance, allow small companies to extend their markets and reduce delivery expenses. To this end CIFT has explored and will continue to investigate a model for creating a virtual distribution company.
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