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A bureau within the U.S. Department of Commerce
Funding Opportunities Background

Office of Innovation and
Entrepreneurship (OIE)

University of Wisconsin System


Stevens Point, Wisconsin

Project Name

Proof of Concept Center: Innovation and entrepreneurship for new uses of vegetable production and processing residuals



Award Amount

$499,965 for a new Proof of Concept Center

Wisconsin ranks second among U.S. states for harvested acreage and total production of processing vegetables and third for production value. Production and processing of these crops contributes more than $6 billion in economic activity in Wisconsin and supports nearly 30,000 jobs. This proof of concept center (POCC) focuses on a heavily agricultural, nine-county area of central and south-central Wisconsin.

The POCC seeks to demonstrate feasibility of commercializing valuable chemicals from residual materials from harvesting and processing of specialty vegetable crops. Vegetables and their residuals contain numerous chemicals such as vitamins, proteins, sugars and lipids, waxes and other aliphatic and aromatic compounds such as antioxidants. Our strategy is to identify and target chemicals that may provide important functionality in non-food industrial uses.

Led by the Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology, a unit of the College of Natural Resources at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, project participants include Del Monte Foods, which has three vegetable processing plants in the project region; Heartland Farms, a Central Wisconsin-based potato and vegetable grower; Pavelski Legacy Partners, which manages and invests in a diverse portfolio of companies; Midwest Food Processors Association; and the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and WiSys Technology Foundation, a nonprofit supporting the University of Wisconsin in technology transfer; will provide advice on commercialization strategies.

We anticipate that this project will have a substantial impact on the region’s important agricultural production and processing industries. This impact will be seen in three areas:

  1. Formation of an interconnected web of entrepreneurs that includes producers, processors, researchers, investors and economic development professionals, who together generate ideas for innovation to take advantage of the region’s assets;
  2. An increase in total economic activity arising from the derivation of new products from agricultural processing residuals and by-products;
  3. An increase in employment as new start-ups take advantage of the ideas and technology generated in this entrepreneurial culture.