© 2020 by MJTP

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As part of our core values, Food21 is committed to increasing the diversity and inclusivity of the region’s food economy.  While this has historically fallen to non-profit business incubator programs and micro-business development groups, taking a small idea and then a home-based business to a level where it becomes a wealth-creating enterprise requires more advanced tools.  Best practice in this area is to support early-stage businesses with an accelerator – literally a way to rapidly accelerate growth to a scale that is sustainable and meaningful.  In 2020, Food21 will launch the first proto-type of a business accelerator tailored to women- and minority-owned businesses in the greater Pittsburgh area.  The model unites seasoned partners who have run and operated food businesses with first-class facilities for making food products and offers technical support and business training.  The effort will work with a selective number of participants over a twelve-month period in cohorts.  Participants will be partially supported with scholarship assistance and the Food21 team will  prepare “landing spots” for each participant as they develop their business – whether in a food production facility or in a retail environment.  The program will be open to both food makers and caterers (including mobile catering – food trucks).  

For more information and an expression of interest, contact Rick Terrien at rick@food21.org

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In the 2018 white paper, Building a Resilient and Sustainable Food Economy for the Pittsburgh Region, Food21 pointed to the severe economic challenges facing our region’s agricultural community.  Most farms are not generating enough revenue to enable owners to make ends meet without off-farm income.  After almost a year of discussion, Food21 will launch the Ag Working Group in 2020, which will be tasked with developing a series of initiatives dedicated to raising farm income and improving the likelihood of both sustainability and orderly succession.

The Ag Working Group has selected the following areas for project development over the next two years:

  • Develop a business case for investment in a regional processing and marketing enterprise that can significantly expand the region’s on-farm livestock programs.  Today nearly 300,000 head of cattle are in the fields of the region’s farms. But converting those into a reliable industry in which farmers can focus on the raising of livestock -- and get full value from their inventories through a regional processing center and marketing organization -- has proven to be a challenge.  An investor case and plan of action to resolve this is a top priority for the Ag Working Group.

  • The white paper also identified the incredible turnaround of the agriculture industry in the Netherlands through the application of energy efficient, year-round growing facilities.  Beginning in 2020, the Working Group will develop turnkey solutions for farmers in the region to access low-cost, on-site energy resources and build commercial, year-round on-farm growing facilities.  The Working Group will start with designs and prototypes that use farm gas resources, fixed structures and advanced co-generation technology.  Demonstrations will lead to beta testing and then commercial roll-outs.

  • Recently, it has become clear that “last mile” issues for farmers getting their products to market has limited the ability to grow and reach a wider audience in a region that is interested in locally grown food.  The Working Group will look closely at the use of food hubs, aggregation centers, low cost, small scale mobile transport and other technologies – including supply chain management and planning tools for growers to ensure that the value created by farmers is not lost in closing the last mile between farms and their customers.

For more information, contact Vince Mangini at vince@food21.org.