Michigan State University to spend $1.5 million to develop food production system in Detroit

Posted on June 28, 2012

Michigan State University has committed to spending $1.5 million over the next three years to foster food system innovation in Detroit.

The MetroFoodPlus Innovation Cluster @ Detroit is envisioned as a hub of food industry businesses, sharing resources, work and ideas. The cluster will encompass existing food businesses but also cultivate new technologies and businesses from outside the metro area, with the goal of attracting an entrepreneurial culture focused around food systems.

Every part of the food system must be addressed, from growing technologies to distribution systems, said Rick Foster, director of MSU’s Greening Michigan Institute and one of the leaders of the new initiative.

Detroit, he said, can become a leader worldwide in farming innovation.

The project in the city ultimately could have a relatively small footprint, by agricultural standards — about eight to 10 acres, Foster said.

“This is our first step forward into urban agriculture,” Detroit Mayor Dave Bing said Wednesday at a joint press conference with MSU President Lou Anna Simon. “I do not believe we could have a better partner than President Simon.”

The relationship was formalized in a memorandum of understanding, an agreement between governmental entities that defines the terms of the relationship.

Foster said that Detroiters need better access to fresh food, that the opportunity for innovation is limitless and that the effort also dovetails with worldwide food production needs. Projections say the world’s food production will need to double by 2050 to accommodate population growth.

Because the cost of transporting grains from temperate climates will increase, it will become necessary to grow fruits and vegetables closer to the point of consumption.

Detroit has the opportunity to pioneer technologies that would make that possible, Foster said.

Bing said the concentration of engineers and manufacturers in Southeast Michigan means the area is well-suited to capitalize on agricultural innovation.

By: Nancy Kaffer, Crain’s Detroit