The North Carolina Food Innovation Lab | Photo courtesy of CRB
Architecture, engineering and construction firm CRB has designed a state-of-the-art food innovation lab in Kannapolis as part of a new North Carolina program to incentivize food processing in the state.
The $7.2 million lab gives North Carolina a new hub for plant-based food manufacturing advancement.
Four strategic partners joined forces to create the new program: North Carolina State University, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina and the North Carolina Research Campus.
The North Carolina Food Innovation Lab (NCFIL) is designed to support every step of product development, from research and ideation to limited runs and packaging for the test market. The 16,000-square-foot facility is designed for flexibility, allowing processors to produce a broad variety of products in order to serve the needs of customers ranging from small startups to big companies.
NCFIL was designed to encourage collaboration and innovation. The facility seeks to be a driving force for food and beverage production in North Carolina.
The food manufacturing lab and pilot plant facility provide space for brainstorming, testing formulas, processing ingredients and innovation. Its goal is to serve as a catalyst for plant-based food research and manufacturing. In addition to helping get new food concepts off the ground, the lab will host courses and workshops.
NCFIL offers five advanced technologies: thermal processing, extraction, milling/blending, drying and extrusion; as well as five food categories: beverage, bakery, sauces and prepared meals, fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, and confectionery. NCFIL contains workspaces and equipment to perfect a prototype before scale-up in the state-of-the-art pilot plant.
Food safety is an important focus. NCFIL is designed to prevent potential cross-contamination or unsanitary conditions. The pilot plant area is designed to the highest possible cGMP standards, requiring tight control over access to the space.