The Minnesota Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI) points to small, growing food-and-fiber companies as evidence of recent success.

They include names such as Amazing Chickpea and its chickpea-based, gluten-and-nut free spreads; Lou Lou Foods protein and energy bars, and working with EarthClean on new uses for its cornstarch-based fire suppressant.

AURI CEO Shannon Schlecht said in the most recent report to stakeholders companies assisted by AURI invested $89.9 million and realized sales of $76.9 million between 2010 and 2016 as they created or retained a total of 603 jobs.

The feedstock for the growing list of local food companies is provided by Minnesota farmers who seek new and expanded markets for their corn, wheat, soybeans and assorted specialty crops. 

AURI, based in Crookston, Mn., worked on more than 200 projects, including 114 initiated in fiscal 2016, particularly in the food industry. AURI also works with farmers and food makers on uses for agricultural byproducts and wastes, and alternative energy products through its laboratories and business consulting.

AURI, which last year received $3.64 million of its $4.4 million in revenue from state appropriations, also operates facilities in Marshall, Waseca and St. Paul.

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