grant overview

USDA Agriculture Innovation Center Program - The purpose of this program is to establish and operate centers that provide technical and business development assistance to agricultural commodity producers seeking to engage in the development and marketing of value-added agricultural products. 

Purdue's goal with the program is to lower barriers of entry into the food industry for producers of agricultural commodities. This will be accomplished through three program phases (listed in more detail below) of asynchronous, online courses, in-person workshops, and individualized product and business development support to enable and empower producers to bring novel food and beverage products to market. 


What is a Value-Added product?

To be viewed as a value-added food or beverage, the product must meet at least one of the following requirements according to the USDA:
  1. Has undergone a change in physical state
  2. It was produced in a manner that enhances the value of the agricultural commodity
  3. Is physically segregated in a manner that results in the enhancement of the value of the agricultural commodity
  4. Is aggregated and marketed as a locally-produced agricultural food product


Grant Eligibility:

If you are interested in applying for this grant, please review the eligibility requirements below. Should you fulfill all requirements, please submit the below-linked eligibility form to FEMI's Business Development Administrator Madison Mehringer at for review and acceptance into the program.

AIC Grant Eligibility Requirements:

All agricultural commodities produced by growers / producers or the entrepreneurship of growers / producers within the state of Indiana must fall within the below designated categories to be considered for grant funding use and eligibility.

  1. All products must be safe and regulated for human consumption and considered edible by local, state, and country law.
  2. The entrepreneur or producer of the agricultural commodity must self-produce at least 51% by weight or higher of the ingredients to be included in the final food product.
  3. The entire growing and food production operation of the grower / producer must be within the boundaries of the state of Indiana.
  4. Due to regulatory and production constraints, products eligible for Phase Three: Product Formulation and Development will fall into the following commodity categories: dairy, vegetables, fruits, corn, soy, and nut products. All products not within the specified commodity categories are welcome to participate in the first two phases of the grant: Phase 1: Online Course Learning and Phase 2: Food Product and Production Environmental Testing Workshop.
  5. Products containing controlled substances (including but not limited to alcohol and drugs) will not be accepted for services.
  6. Growers and entrepreneurial growers must fill out a form (provided on the first two pages of this document) designating and detailing eligibility of grant funding.
    1. The form must be submitted for review before services or access to resources are given.
  7. Every grower / producer is eligible for work on one Phase 3: Product Formulation and Development project at a time.
  8. All products not fit for human consumption and not within the product categories outlined above will not be considered for funding covered access to resources and Agricultural Innovation Center services.
    1. Any entrepreneurs, businesses, and/or proposed products that do not fit within the above guidelines may access the Phase 1: Online Course Learning courses through self-paid access and are encouraged to apply to the Food Entrepreneurship and Manufacturing Institute (FEMI) at Purdue University for services relating to fit for human consumption food grade product development, research, and business planning services for the fees outlined by the Institute.

If you meet all of the above legibility requirements, please submit this GRANT ELIGIBILITY FORM to Madison Mehringer at for review and entry into the AIC program. 

Various produce

Program Details

Phase 1 - Online Course Learning

Estimated time to complete: 1 - 3 months total for all six courses

Phase 1 of the AIC Program introduces participants to food formulation and production and business development principles through six asynchronous, online courses. These courses can be completed according to each individual's pace and availability. After completion of each course, a certificate of completion, asserting successful completion and learning of course objectives, will be awarded. Once all six courses have been completed, submit the six certificates of completion to Madison Mehringer at to sign up for Phase 2 - Food Product and Production Environmental Testing Workshop. To register for Phase 1, please follow the instructions outlined at the bottom of this section.


Within the six courses, you will learn: 

Food and Beverage Focused Content:

Basics of Microbiology and Food Safety

Fundamentals of Formulation - Terminology and Logistics

Value-Added Product Development Principles

Business Focused Content:

Competitive Analysis and Marketing Strategies

Financing and Funding

Fundamentals of a Business Plan and Product and Market DevelopmentPhase 1 Registration Instructions:

Please read through the grant requirements and submit the grant eligibility form to Madison Mehringer at for review and acceptance into the AIC program. 

Upon acceptance to the program, you will receive a fee waiver promo code to access the courses listed above. 

Please email all grant eligibility and / or Phase 1 questions to Madison Mehringer at

Phase 2 - Food Product and Production Environmental Testing Workshop

Estimated time to Complete: one day

Phase 2 of the AIC Program builds upon the safe food production and product formulation principles learned in the Phase 1 asynchronous, online courses. This one-day workshop held on Purdue University's campus consists of two focus areas: 1) Food Product Facing Testing and 2) Production Environmental Facing Testing. 

These areas of focus are important to launching a successful food or beverage product because they examine the testing metrics and parameters used to assess the viability and safety of food products and food production environments. To bring a product to market, many of these parameters may be required by local, state, and federal regulatory and safety agencies. These workshops will also serve as a networking opportunity with other entrepreneurs and food and beverage industry representatives.

These workshops will be offered every other month. Please read the instructions below for workshop registration.

Workshop dates

September 2024

November 2024

January 2025

March 2025

May 2025

July 2025

Phase 2 Workshop Registration Instructions:

After completion of Phase 1, please send your certificates of completion for all six asynchronous courses to Madison Mehringer at for access to register for Phase 2 -  Food Product and Production Environmental Testing Workshop.

Phase 3 - Product Formulation and Development

Estimated time to complete: 6 - 8 months

To prepare program participants for future product pitches, entry into Phase 3 of the AIC Program occurs following a successful product pitch to a panel of judges. The producers who have completed Phases 1 and 2 will be provided the opportunity to pitch their food or beverage product business plans and individualized product or business support needs to a panel of judges.

Upon approval from the judges, participants will receive individualized support in product production and / or business planning and development areas such as product formulation, logistics, manufacturing scaling, marketing development, funding strategies, etc. Assistance with business planning will come from the Purdue Agricultural Economics Department and food or beverage product assistance will come from the Purdue Food Science Department.

Examples of eligible individualized projects include questions about shelf life studies, food safety questions, business planning, marketing development, securing funding sources, and scaling up and establishing production specifications. 

Please read below for instructions to apply for entry into Phase 3. 

Phase 3 Registration Instructions:

Phases 1 and 2 of this grant program must be completed prior to pitching your business plan and individualized product formulation and development plan for entry into Phase 3. 

Submit your Phase 2 workshop certificate of completion to Madison Mehringer at for access to apply to pitch your product and individualized product production and / or business planning and development project plan for entry to Phase 3. 

Important Notes:

At this point in time, Purdue does not offer nutritional analysis or co-manufacturing capabilities. 

Due to individualized project timelines, participants interested in Phase 3 must be prepared to enter Phase 3 by August 2025 to participate.


Do I need to complete the three phases in order? Yes

Are travel expenses to Purdue covered? No

Are pet treats eligible? No, because regulations for human and pet consumption are different and the grant information will only cover materials applicable to food for human consumption. 

I have a business partner, do we both need to complete Phases 1 and 2 individually? You are both welcome to do Phases 1 and 2 individually, but it is not required.

What do you consider to be certain controlled substances? Why aren't they allowed in Phase 3? Controlled substances would include alcohol and drugs (we are including THC-containing ingredients such as hemp in this). They are not allowed in Phase 3 because that phase includes having the product on Purdue campus property and it is against university regulations.

I understand the controlled substances, but why aren't meat products allowed in Phase 3? Great question! Unfortunately, our production spaces are only FDA compliant, not USDA. So we aren't able to work with meat products for human consumption. Because sensory testing is part of phase 3, we are unable to offer that service for meat products.

Do I have to complete all of the phases? Yes and No. If you wish to have access to resources and materials provided in later phases, then yes, you must complete the phases before the one you wish to access. However, if all of your questions or assistance needs are fulfilled before you complete all three phases there is no requirement to continue to the next phase. 

Are expenses for Phase Three covered under the grant? Services are covered by the grant. However, travel would not be covered. 

Who should I contact with questions? Madison Mehringer 

AIC Staff and Faculty Affiliates

Food Science Department


Dr. Dharmendra Mishra

Food Science Faculty - FEMI Director


Allison Kingery

Food Science Staff - FEMI Managing Director


Madison Mehringer 

Food Science Staff - AIC Grant Manager 


Dr. Christian Butzke

Food Science Faculty


Dr. Amanda Deering

Food Science Faculty


Dr. Senay Simsek

Food Science Faculty


Allison Brown

Food Science Staff


Agricultural Economics Department


Dr. Brenna Ellison

Agricultural Economics Faculty


Dr. Kenneth Foster

Agricultural Economics Faculty - FEMI Assistant Director


Dr. Maria Marshall

Agricultural Economics Faculty


Renee Wiatt

Agricultural Economics Staff