The state of Georgia’s 2013 budget includes $3.5 million to construct a long-awaited facility where UGA food scientists in Griffin will help businesses launch new food products and processes.
The College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and the Griffin-Spalding County Development Authority have been seeking funds for the project since 2005. The university and the authority will each add $1 million to the construction fund.
The funds will be combined to construct a dedicated food product innovation and commercialization, or Food PIC, building on the UGA campus in Griffin. Food PIC is a partnership between small-food business entrepreneurs, the college and the Griffin-Spalding County community.
“We work directly with food companies and entrepreneurs to develop new products and processes, to improve their profitability and to create jobs in Georgia,” said Dick Phillips, a UGA professor and food scientist who leads the Food PIC project.
Phillips and his colleagues currently work under tight conditions and have had to keep some of their equipment in storage due to lack of space.
“The new building will house a pilot plant and laboratory spaces for cold temperature work, wet processing and dry processing, as well as quality control labs,” he said. “It will supplement but not replace existing laboratories in the food science building on the Griffin campus.”
The Food PIC project at UGA will be the only one of its kind in the Southeast and was created in response to the high failure rate—80 percent—of new food products, Phillips said.
Rakesh Singh, head of the department of food science and technology, said the new facility would give food companies a stronger start.
“Small companies can come to Griffin and establish their businesses in-house with support from UGA faculty,” Singh said. Then they would “reach a stage where they would be ready to open their own businesses or expand existing product lines.”
At the Food PIC facility, new business owners will be guided in product development, packaging, food safety, consumer acceptance and marketing. The staff includes engineers, chemists, microbiologists, consumer sensory scientists and research chefs both from within the university and private industry.