The partnership aims to connect the resources of Michigan State University with west Michigan entrepreneurs and food companies.


MUSKEGON, Mich. — The Michigan State University (MSU) Product Center and the West Michigan Food Processing Association announced a partnership on Monday, August 2 that brings the university’s resources to the doorstep of west Michigan food companies and innovative entrepreneurs.


“Our mission is to help entrepreneurs in the food, agriculture and natural resource space add value to their products and to assist in the development of new and innovative products,” said Mollie Woods, director of the MSU Product Center. “We are excited to strengthen our presence in west Michigan and to share our expertise in food processing innovation.”


The MSU Product Center will expand outreach efforts by managing the Food, Agriculture, Research and Manufacturing (FARM) food processing accelerator developed by the West Michigan Food Processing Association. The facility will provide space and technical assistance to entrepreneurs and businesses to scale up new product and service ideas into the food, agriculture and bioenergy markets.


“It is very exciting for the MSU Product Center to be able to add FARM operations to our already successful model at the Food Processing and Innovation Center,” said Tina Conklin, director of the MSU Product Center’s Food Processing and Innovation Center. “This opportunity allows us to continue assisting food and agriculture business and entrepreneurs as they successfully launch products and gain market share.”


Clarence Rudat, former program coordinator for the Institute of Agricultural Technology (IAT) in Muskegon, was recently hired as the MSU FARM Manager and will oversee the FARM accelerator effective August 2, 2021. He will also serve as a direct resource for food companies throughout the region, bringing 33 years of experience in career and technical education about food, agriculture and natural resources to the table.


“We could not have accomplished this much progress with FARM without the ongoing support of our community partners, including Community Foundation for Muskegon County, Greater Muskegon Economic Development, Muskegon Community College, as well as several other regional and state partners,” said Marty Gerencer, executive director of the West Michigan Food Processing Association. “We are so pleased to welcome Clarence into this role and to have MSU’s support to continue the launch of this facility.”


The FARM accelerator will help startup food processing and agricultural-based businesses cultivate talent, create jobs, put down roots and grow in the west Michigan region. By now adding the Muskegon region to the MSU Product Center’s service area, budding entrepreneurs as well as seasoned food manufacturers can tap into the 160-plus years of research and innovation.

“With over $22.3 billion invested in food and agriculture start-ups in 2020, the synergy this partnership brings to the region couldn’t be more timely,” said Rudat. “With Michigan being the second most agriculturally diverse state in the nation, farmers are looking to add value to their products, and creative food entrepreneurs are looking to test and scale up innovative ideas. I can’t think of a better location to leverage the resources of MSU, MCC and the infrastructure of west Michigan.”


The FARM accelerator, located adjacent to Muskegon Community College, has manufacturing and training spaces including a docking station for the MSU Mobile Food Processing Lab, cold storage, logistic areas, office space and parking.

“This is a great addition to the training programs we already offer around manufacturing including our one-year food science certificate and the two-year associate degree in food processing, technology and safety that is delivered here in partnership with MSU IAT,” said Dr. Dale Nesbary, president of Muskegon Community College. For more information on these offerings:

MSU Product Center

Contact: Mollie Woods, Director

Email: willi751@msu.edu

Mobile: (517) 281-3100

MSU Product Center Manufacturing Operations, FPIC, FARM, DFP

Contact: Tina Conklin, Director

Email: conkli74@msu.edu

Mobile: (616) 443-1957

Food, Agriculture, Research and Manufacturing (FARM) Accelerator

Contact: Clarence Rudat, MSU FARM Manager

Email: rudatcla@msu.edu

Mobile: (231) 740-5615

West Michigan Food Processing Association

Contact: Marty Gerencer, Executive Director

Email: marty.gerencer@gmail.com

Mobile: (231) 638-2981