New food institute blends academic, industry partners

Cornell launches Institute for Food Systems Industry Partnership Program to engage food industry with faculty to work on farm-to-fork issues.

In an era of tight resources for food makers, sometimes solutions are found in the meeting of food minds, such as through the Cornell Institute for Food Systems Industry Partnership Program (CIFS-IPP), a new public-private partnership that brings together Cornell's CIFS faculty fellows and staff with industry scientists, engineers and leaders.

"Our program is a new opportunity for industry members to engage with Cornell faculty, staff and students to work on farm-to-fork food system issues," said Julie Stafford, Cornell's industry liaison officer, who leads CIFS-IPP.

The institute comprises more than 60 faculty members from more than a dozen disciplines who can address current food system challenges and develop effective solutions.

"We think this is unique," Stafford said.

CIFS was established with the support of the Cornell department of food science, which has a long history of supporting the entrepreneurial spirit critical to advancing new processing approaches and economic development.

CIFS-IPP membership offers participants customized opportunities to engage in collaborative research, technical training and technology transfer through a diverse number of venues including Cornell's New York State Food Venture Center at the Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, N.Y., which offers guidance to entrepreneurs in food processing, food safety and regulatory compliance.

For example, a food company needing assistance with a difficult food safety issue, such as how to design a new minimally processed food that is safe but with extended shelf life, would engage with an interdisciplinary team of faculty to develop viable solutions.

Already a variety of food companies serving the dairy, wine and food distribution industries have signed on as members.

"Academic researchers and industrial scientists can work together on critical issues," said Olga Padilla-Zakour, chair of food science. "The partnership facilitates a comprehensive view of the food supply and decisions can be made based on current knowledge, guiding the process to find effective solutions to improve food systems. The ultimate goal is to contribute to CIFS's mission to have safe, sustainable, affordable, nutritious foods for all consumers."

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