US (MO): Innovation Center cultivates growth in local agribusinesses

Nearly one-third of Missouri's economy is tied to agriculture. Now, as part of a partnership that evolved from a statewide effort to help agricultural producers scale their businesses, the Missouri Agriculture, Food, and Forestry Innovation Center (MAFFIC) has launched. The center draws on agricultural business development expertise at the University of Missouri and the Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Development Authority (MASBDA).

Supported by a two-year, $1.3 million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development (USDA-RD), MAFFIC helps producers level up their business acumen, so they can confidently turn raw ideas into viable businesses or further grow established successful businesses. Experts at MAFFIC advise clients on everything from best business practices — including finding a product's market, offering tips for keeping financial records and understanding a product's cost of goods — to food safety.

"Many food and farm entrepreneurs are really good at making a product," said Mallory Rahe, co-director of MAFFIC and faculty with MU Extension. "It's our job to support them on the financial analysis and business decision-making side, and that's where our skills and service come in."

With a staff of 13 advisers knowledgeable in a variety of subjects, MAFFIC serves as a valuable, free resource for agricultural producers working to take their value-added agricultural businesses to the next level.

"We are committed to supporting Missouri farmers as they grow their economic impact, and we are pleased to partner with MAFFIC, "said Jill Wood, executive director of the Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Development Authority. "The center's focus on providing technical assistance to new and established value-added producers aligns well with our ability to provide capital for these agricultural ventures."

Over the course of the two-year grant, MAFFIC's goals are to support value-added businesses in attracting capital, assist value-added agricultural businesses as they start up or expand and create and retain jobs across the state. These outcomes directly support the broader goal within MU Extension to double the value of Missouri agriculture by 2030 while sustaining natural resources and supporting the implementation of the state's Show-Me-State Food, Beverage, and Forest Products Manufacturing Initiative. Successful outcomes from MAFFIC's work will add to the $6.5 billion economic impact that the University of Missouri System generates in Missouri.

"We've got a lot of enthusiasm coming out of the coronavirus pandemic for local foods from both consumers and producers who see an opportunity to fill a hole in the market," said Joe Horner, co-director of MAFFIC and agricultural economist with MU Extension. "Now, we've got a vehicle and the means to accelerate some of those entrepreneurs' goals."

Since MAFFIC officially opened in early January, the center has already worked with 65 small business owners who develop niche goods, including wood products, farm-finished meat, honey, and elderberry products. A group of industry leaders provide oversight and input by serving as a board of directors for the center.

"The challenges of the last few years have created opportunities for Missouri producers," said Ashley McCarty, MAFFIC board member and executive director of Missouri Farmers Care. "When producers can mobilize production, marketing, and distribution, they can meet market demand and give consumers access to locally produced products. MAFFIC is ready to help Missouri value-added producers succeed."

As one of a few resources of its kind in Missouri, MAFFIC will serve agricultural producers by assisting them in developing and marketing value-added products in the following ways:

  • Work with producers to assess business readiness, choose appropriate business structures, test business concepts, and plan their businesses.
  • Offer financial advisory services to help producers compile financial statements and provide advice on how to access capital, budget effectively, and make financial projections.
  • Assist producers with developing products using safe methods by increasing their understanding of food regulations and good agricultural practices.
  • Connect producers with value-chain stakeholders and infrastructure such as commercial kitchens, processors, storage facilities, and distributors.
  • Work with producers to think through marketing considerations such as communicating with customers, collecting their feedback, and pricing products competitively.

"This center encourages entrepreneurs to bring innovative ideas to Missouri's agri-marketplace," said Rob Kallenbach, associate dean for Extension in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. "MAFFIC's work will help new or expanding companies develop solid business plans and connect them to potential customers."


Publication date:

Receive the daily newsletter in your email for free | Click here

Other news in this sector:

Sign up for our daily Newsletter and stay up to date with all the latest news!

Subscribe I am already a subscriber

You are using software which is blocking our advertisements (adblocker).

As we provide the news for free, we are relying on revenues from our banners. So please disable your adblocker and reload the page to continue using this site.

Click here for a guide on disabling your adblocker.