(07/18/22) BATON ROUGE, La. — The LSU AgCenter Food Innovation Institute has received a five-year, $1.5 million U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration grant to update and expand its facility adjacent to the LSU campus in Baton Rouge.
Along with $2.5 million in state funding, the grant will allow the institute, known as FOODii, to unify its operations and further its mission of connecting Louisiana food businesses with researchers shaping the future of food production and security.
With the funds, an existing building on Gourrier Avenue outside the south gates of LSU will be renovated to create a storefront, additional kitchens, an industrial freezer and cooler, a loading dock and classroom and conference room spaces.
“Our goal is to be a one-stop shop for Louisiana food companies, whether they are startups or already in business,” said Gaye Sandoz, director of FOODii.
Founded in 2013 as the LSU AgCenter Food Incubator, the institute began by providing food entrepreneurs assistance that helped their businesses thrive — marketing help, nutritional resources and kitchens and workspaces that met state licensing guidelines.
That mission remains a core component of FOODii. The institute has expanded its scope to include research and development of “food for the future,” which includes the exploration of alternative sources of food and protein.
FOODii now has 39 tenants producing 180 food products at its Baton Rouge facility. These tenants, which include Hanley’s salad dressings and toppings, Pranam Superfoods, D’Agostino pasta sauce and City Gelato, generated 140 tons of food products last year.
Currently, FOODii facilities are spread across four locations, Sandoz said. Ingram Hall, a former poultry science building, houses many of the offices, kitchens and equipment used by tenants. Its location within the LSU campus presents a challenge to tenants and visitors as well as tractor-trailers delivering materials or picking up products for distribution.
At the Gourrier Avenue location, the first phase of the FOODii expansion has already been completed. A bottling facility with two kitchens and additional resources was completed last year. The Economic Development Administration grant and state funds will assist in renovations of an existing warehouse space, bringing the total size of FOODii facilities to 19,126 square feet. Sandoz said FOODii is seeking private funding to complete the building.
“These EDA investments will provide modern infrastructure to support development and growth of new and existing businesses,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo in a news release about the FOODii grant and a separate grant for DeSoto Parish.The FOODii project is expected to create 261 jobs and generate $10 million in private investment, according to estimates the institute developed for the Economic Development Administration grant.
FOODiiExterior: An artist’s rendering shows the planned exterior of the completed LSU AgCenter Food Innovation Institute. LSU AgCenter image