North Carolina (NC) State University is developing the North Carolina Food Innovation Lab (NCFIL), a food manufacturing pilot plant in Kannapolis, US.
NCFIL will be housed on the first floor of the David H Murdock Core Laboratory Building located within the 350-acre NC Research Campus.
In December 2018, a ground-breaking ceremony was held by all project partners, including NC State University, NC Research Camp, NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and NC Economic Development Partnership.
When completed in October 2019, the innovation centre will become the region’s first university-based test lab and pilot plant certified with the FDA’s current good manufacturing practices (cGMP).
The facility will allow entrepreneurs, farmers and food manufacturers to drive the process of bringing new food products onto the market.
North Carolina Food Innovation Lab details
Spanning 16,000ft², NCFIL will be a plant-based food processing facility that will facilitate research and development within a product development lab.
The facility will house a pilot production plant for processing food using wet and thermal techniques. It will be supplied with the latest equipment for the extraction and drying of food products.
The equipment at the centre will process grains, fruits, vegetables and raw plant materials. It will provide space for brainstorming, testing formulae and processing ingredients.
Other facilities at the lab will include a mechanical room, workshop and storage area, cold rooms and office area.
It will also offer training, workshops and food industry consulting services.
Features of NCFIL’s product development lab
The product development lab will include a 740ft² test kitchen and product development space, a 175ft² quality assurance lab and a 160ft² meeting space to facilitate collaborations.
It will also accommodate test equipment solutions such as viscosity, Brix, pH, texture and microbiological.
It will feature two dishwashers, hand washing and lab sinks, laminar flow and fume hoods, incubators and environmental chambers, coffee bean roaster and peanut butter mill.
The lab will support the production of plant-based food products, including beverages, baked goods, confectionery, sauces, snack foods, prepared meals, meat, cereals and pastas.
Training and workshops at NCFIL
The innovation centre will offer courses on food safety and the manufacturing process. It will conduct training for companies and entrepreneurs on the latest manufacturing practices.
It will also provide training for food start-ups regarding funding, finding co-manufacturers, building a new food processing facility and packaging parameters.
The topics under food safety and processing training will be Food Safety Modernisation Act (FSMA), Better Process Control School (BPCS), acidified foods certification, foreign supplier certification, sanitation in a food-producing facility and pump maintenance.
Food industry consulting services at NCFIL
NCFIL will offer both remote and in-person consulting services to help food manufacturers on various parameters, including evaluation of new products, improvement of operational safety, optimisation of return on product line expansions and effective utilisation of capital.
The lab will have the capability to manufacture a wide range of unique and traditional plant-based food products.
NCFIL received $4.4m in funding from the 2017 North Carolina state budget. It will receive a further $700,000 in recurring funds for carrying out operations.
The Golden LEAF Foundation granted $2.2m for the purchasing of the innovation centre’s equipment in December 2017.
The innovation centre is a key component of the NC Food Manufacturing Initiative, which aims to increase the growth of North Carolina’s food manufacturing economy.
The new centre will create employment, revitalise rural communities and open new markets for entrepreneurs and farmers.
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