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Initiative will unleash Indiana’s agricultural potential

The Indiana State Department of Agriculture is marching toward 2025 with a clear vision about the importance and potential of the state’s agricultural sector. “We really have an opportunity to be a leader,” Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann told The Produce News in a recent interview.

Ellspermann said the Indianapolis-based think tank, BioCrossroads, released its latest report, Food and Agricultural Innovation: 21st Century Opportunities for Indiana, in 2012. AgCorridorOVLt. Gov. Sue EllspermannData in the report built upon information gathered during a yearlong study undertaken by the private-public partnership in 2004 and provided an action plan to advance the state’s agricultural sector.

Ellspermann said the report led to the creation of the Food & Agriculture Innovation Corridor, a major initiative fully supported by the Indiana State Department of Agriculture.

In 2005, following the release of BioCrossroads’ initial report, the Indiana State Department of Agriculture — under the leadership of former Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman — released its own strategic plan, Possibilities Unbound: The Plan for 2025, which identified seven strategies to achieve an aggressive vision to make Indiana a “global center for food and agriculture innovation and commercialization.”

These priorities include improving regulatory issues involving agriculture; identifying diversified production models for all Indiana farmers; and incubating innovative food products that use Indiana agricultural commodities to support nutritious and healthy diets, she said.

The 2012 BioCrossroads report summarized future potential for Indiana in this way:

“Today, perhaps more than ever, agricultural science and technology hold significant potential to solve critical societal challenges and also to generate new business and industry growth. The burgeoning global population and commensurate food demands will tax the agricultural production system in the decades to come. This creates significant demand for new technology applications and further heightens the potential for the sector in Indiana.”

“This will be important with the world’s growing population. We’re in the first phases” of implementing the initiative, Ellspermann said.

Ellspermann said the department will work with stakeholders such as Purdue University, Dow AgroSciences and Elanco Animal Health to facilitate Indiana’s ag corridor. She said officials plan to study other innovation corridors established in the United States as Indiana moves forward. Existing corridors of note include the University of California-Davis Center for Science & Innovation, University of Wisconsin Biotech Center and North Carolina Biotech Center.

A board of directors is being formed, and Ellspermann said more detailed information about Indiana’s Food & Agriculture Corridor will be available in 2014.