Center for Innovative Food Technology
(CIFT) is on a mission to enhance Ohio’s agricultural future and has been for nearly two decades.
CIFT planted roots in Toledo in 1995, acknowledging Northwest Ohio’s “rich history of food manufacturing and agricultural production, which provides a framework for many of the initiatives,” explains Vice President and Director of Agricultural Programs, Rebecca Singer. Since then, CIFT has continually expanded its services as a member of the Ohio Edison Centers
“The Center for Innovative Food Technology has provided technical innovations and solutions to the food processing, agribusiness and agricultural sectors,” says Singer. “These services are designed to enhance the economic performance of the food processing and agricultural sectors and create new jobs within the industry.”
Examples of CIFT’s success in the industry include Sandridge foods in Medina and Jones-Hamilton in Walbridge. CIFT went to Sandridge and provided technical assistance, which led to their decision to purchase a High-Pressure Processing system, enhancing their products, increasing shelf life and adding new flavor components. Elsewhere, CIFT transformed Jones-Hamilton to the dairy, meat and poultry, and beverage industries. This has led to relationships with industry leaders, including Gatorade, Hershey’s and Ohio’s own grocery giant, Kroger.
In order to continue creating jobs within the industry, networking and strategic partnerships with industry organizations is a must. “For example, the Center for Innovative Food Technology has an agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture
’s Agricultural Research Service
,” Singer details. “The agreement provides Ohio’s agricultural sector with direct access to the expertise, capabilities, and intellectual property of the agency and its 2,100 agricultural scientists throughout the nation, which in turn can greatly enhance economic development and global competitiveness for the agricultural economy.”
But CIFT’s future isn’t without obstacles. Like any non-profit, the organization continually faces the challenge of maintaining operational stability. Singer insists the answer to maintaining said stability lies in their strategy to enhance economic development – identify and solicit strategic partnerships.
“Continued diversification in services, identification of new opportunities for engagement and continued awareness of industry needs facilitates valuable programs and support,” says Singer.