ringing a food or beverage from an idea to commercialization can involve a wide range of steps, but through the Food Entrepreneurship and Manufacturing Institute (FEMI) that could become a simpler process.
Aiming to be the missing piece for entrepreneurs and companies in their venture to bring a product onto the market, FEMI will offer services at any point in the production process to manufacturing, FEMI managing director Allison Kingery said. Located inside the Nelson Hall of Food Science, FEMI will offer services that could be for one-time or recurring needs for manufacturers in the food industry.
“Some of our projects will be really focused on value added commodities," Kingery said. “We can also work with entrepreneurs who have a wonderful idea but may not be up to date on food safety knowledge or may need to operate in a commercial kitchen or manufacturing environment so they can show their proof of concept, develop a prototype and get to market.”
Leading FEMI’s operations will be director Dharmendra Mishra, assistant professor of food science and Purdue Extension food technologist, and assistant director Ken Foster, professor of agricultural economics. FEMI’s capacity will range from assisting beginner entrepreneurs working to get off the ground up to large corporations interested in exploring equipment capability or the inclusion of groundbreaking research.
Kingery said 16 undergraduate students will also be part of the team.
“FEMI is creating a mutually beneficial opportunity for our students who will get the opportunity to work with business owners and entrepreneurs to get real-world, hands-on experience,” Kingery said. “Clients are generally very enthusiastic to have student support, so it’s a win-win situation for all involved. Students are critical to the ability of FEMI to accomplish our overall mission.”
For Madison Mehringer, FEMI student lead and a junior studying Food Science, her interest was sparked after learning of its outreach efforts to a wide variety of food manufacturers.
“As someone who values giving back to the food community, I was searching for something that would fulfill my outreach goals and challenge my desire to learn more about our diverse industry,” Mehringer said. “I am always learning more about project organization and management while having the privilege to work with a myriad of companies and entrepreneurs.”
Mehringer said she is eager to see FEMI continue to grow, offering real world opportunities for students for years to come.
“Since students are actively learning new content from their classes, they can readily apply novel and diverse knowledge to projects for a fresh perspective,” Mehringer said. “The work we are doing is vital to all parties, these opportunities are why I am so invested in FEMI’s success.”
“While certain projects are handled primarily by a group of students, many others will depend on the expertise of faculty and staff within both the Department of Food Science and the Department of Agricultural Economics, or even more broadly into the college and university,” Kingery said. “A lot of our work is meant to support Indiana stakeholders, but we aren’t limited to Indiana projects. We are actively reaching across the country for collaborations.”
FEMI is eager to develop collaborations with other state-funded programs that already have significant reach, such as Purdue’s Manufacturing Extension Program, Kingery said. Having facilities such as the Skidmore Product Development Laboratory as well as the Food Science Pilot Plant allow for hands-on services that can close the loop of needed manufacturing support throughout the state.
FEMI’s launch will be celebrated on April 22 from 9-11 a.m. in Nelson Hall with the public welcome to attend. Already interested in a FEMI project request? Submit your information here.
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