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OSU center provides one-of-a-kind research and innovation to Oklahoma’s food-processing industry

Oklahoma State University’s Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center has been serving the state’s food and agricultural industries for more than 20 years.

By Mandy Gross, FAPC Communications Services Manager

(Stillwater, Okla. – March 8, 2018) Oklahoma State University’s Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center has been serving the state’s food and agricultural industries for more than 20 years.

FAPC opened its doors in early 1997 and its research laboratories, pilot-processing facilities, educational programs and seminars keep food and agricultural processors and entrepreneurs on the forefront of cutting-edge value-added processing and technology.

“FAPC was launched with a tremendous vision of helping value-added food and agricultural companies across the state, but no one had an idea of how it would actually flesh out,” says Roy Escoubas, FAPC director.

Two decades later, the center, a part of OSU’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, is going strong and has assisted more than 1,000 Oklahoma clients through 3,000 technical and business projects.

By offering large and small businesses, producers and entrepreneurs access to faculty and staff with expertise in business and technical disciplines, FAPC strives to discover, develop and deliver information that will stimulate and support the growth of value-added food and agricultural products and processing in Oklahoma.

“The creation, development and structure of FAPC are quite unique,” Escoubas says. “FAPC is truly a one-of-a-kind, special model for research, teaching and extension to the food-processing industry, meeting the land-grant mission.”

Research and innovation are two of the main priorities of the center.

“Research is a fundamental component of FAPC, and center scientists participate in research according to their scientific disciplines,” Escoubas says. “Research at FAPC is useful to food processors to keep them aware of and better able to take advantage of cutting-edge technology and trends.”

FAPC specializes in the research of multiple disciplines including oilseeds and oilseed extracts science and technology, small grains science, muscle foods science, economics and value-added food and agricultural business development, food product and process engineering, horticultural food products, food microbiology and forest products.

One of the first projects that brought notoriety to the center was P.B. Slices in 2000.

“A lunchtime talk about “crazy food ideas” sparked the idea for the product,” says Dani Bellmer, FAPC food engineer. “The goal was a shelf-stable, easy-peel-from-the-wrapper peanut butter slice with flavor, texture and color as close to regular peanut butter as possible.”

After years of work, the peanut butter slice technology was licensed and P.B. Slices eventually made their way to grocers’ shelves.

FAPC also discovered a new beef steak, which was unveiled at the Protein Innovation Summit in Chicago, Illinois, in 2012.

“The Vegas Strip Steak is the latest and perhaps last steak to be found from the beef carcass,” says Jacob Nelson, FAPC meat processing specialist.

Following the discovery, the research team filed a patent to protect the fabrication of the beef cut, which was granted in 2016. The Vegas Strip Steak can be found in restaurants, including The Rancher’s Club in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

A more recent project involves helping US Roaster Corp, located in Oklahoma City, market a small, smokeless electric coffee bean roaster with cloud connectivity.

FAPC’s relationship with US Roaster Corp, specializing in new roaster fabrication and rebuilding older roasters, sparked in 2009 when the company began manufacturing its flagship roaster, The Revelation. This roaster is the world’s first industrial roaster to meet air emission standards of southern California.

The new mini coffee bean roaster design is based on The Revelation and can roast a batch of beans in 8 to 16 minutes, depending on the recipe. Target customers for this roaster include small coffee shops in the United States, China and Europe that want to add whole bean roasting to their operations.

“What makes this roaster unique is users can share roast profiles through the cloud,” says Dan Jolliff, owner of US Roaster Corp. “Being able to make coffee exactly the same from user to user is a benefit.”

The mini Revelation allows users to connect a handheld electronic device to download and upload profile formulations with scalability from small to large roasters. The roaster also includes an interchangeable drum that is dishwasher safe.

“There’s not another machine out there that can do all the things that this roaster can do, like changing profiles, having an interchangeable drum and being smokeless,” Jolliff says.

With FAPC’s assistance, US Roasters Corp received a grant from the Oklahoma Applied Research Support Program within the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology to improve the low-cost mini roaster.

“The grant is helping US Roaster Corp automate the controls of the mini, cloud-enabled Revelation; achieve full connectivity between the control system, handheld devices and the cloud; and establish a high-volume manufacturing line to meet current and forecasted demand for the new roaster,” says Tim Bowser, FAPC food engineer. “Working together with OCAST, OSU, industry partners and professional groups allowed US Roaster Corp to implement these goals.”

Because of the partnership between FAPC and US Roaster Corp, Jolliff connected with OSU faculty, staff and students, which gave him additional resources. As a result, he has employed several OSU students, in which two have turned into full-time employees.

In addition to Bowser, OSU personnel working with US Roaster Corp include Ning Wang, Rajesh Krishnamurthy and Don Lake, Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering; Mallika Achanta, doctoral student; Spencer Corry, master’s student; Susan Weckler and Jesse Bowser, undergraduate students; and Matheus Barbosa and Joseph Barnes, OSU graduates and full-time employees of US Roasters Corp.

Jolliff says working with FAPC on the mini Revelation through the OCAST grant has helped the business grow.

“It’s been an educational experience as a business owner, and we wouldn’t be where we are today without the help of OSU,” he says. “Having an open line of communication with OSU to get help, solve problems and answer questions is second-to-none.”

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Oklahoma State University is a modern land-grant university that prepares students for success. OSU has more than 36,000 students across its five-campus system and more than 25,000 on its combined Stillwater and Tulsa campuses, with students from all 50 states and around 120 nations. Established in 1890, Oklahoma State has graduated more than 260,000 students who have been serving Oklahoma and the world for 125 years.