Agribusiness is an economic powerhouse for North Carolina, contributing more than $80 billion annually to its economy. Yet despite the state’s thriving agricultural industry, currently between 80 and 90 percent of the value involved in transforming North Carolina farmers’ products into retail goods happen outside of the state. In order to capture more of the business involved in processing agricultural products and to further grow the state’s agricultural economy, North Carolina elected leaders, agricultural leaders and industry partners, including the Golden LEAF Foundation, helped create a new pilot plant facility at the NC Research Campus in Kannapolis.
On November 14, 2019, Golden LEAF President Scott T. Hamilton joined the partners and state leaders in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Food Innovation Lab. Golden LEAF awarded a $2.2 million grant to purchase equipment for the pilot food manufacturing facility.
“This state-of-the-art facility will be a valuable asset to our state’s farmers, the agriculture industry, and food manufacturers. We look forward to seeing the food manufacturing industry grow and generate new jobs for our workers. We also want to see our farmers and rural communities thrive as this facility helps create new markets for their products.” — Scott T. Hamilton, Golden LEAF President, Chief Executive Officer
The pilot plant, known as the NC Food Innovation Lab, is a state-of-the-art facility that will assist food companies, farmers and entrepreneurs to create new plant-based foods, and take advantage of consumer interest in those items. The facility is intended to keep more of North Carolina’s agricultural products in the state throughout processing – transforming North Carolina’s agricultural industry along with it. N.C. State University, the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the N.C. Department of Commerce, the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, and the North Carolina Research Campus are partners in this collaborative effort focused on researching and developing safer, more nutritious crops, healthier foods and precision nutrition.
Research suggests food manufacturing has the potential to contribute an additional 38,000 jobs and $10.3 billion to North Carolina’s income annually. The technological innovation of the pilot plant will support entrepreneurial endeavors to transform the state’s agricultural diversity. The goal state leaders and partners have for the NC Food Innovation Lab is for it to serve as a leader for economic enhancement through food technology – working with entrepreneurs and multinational food companies to help the industry grow in North Carolina and also to hire state residents.
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