Benedum Grant Will Help Link
Technology, Food Supply Chain

HUNTINGTON - The Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation has awarded the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing (RCBI) a $220,000 grant for a new collaborative initiative aimed at enhancing local food supply chain productivity through advanced technology applications.

The new initiative will integrate the efforts of two West Virginia projects funded last year through the U.S. Economic Development Administration's Rural Jobs and Innovation Acceleration Challenge (RJIAC). The nationwide RJIAC program awarded 13 grants, with West Virginia the only state to receive two grants - for the Southern West Virginia Rural Jobs Accelerator Partnership (3D Accelerator) and the West Virginia Value Chain Cluster Initiative (VC2).

The 3D Accelerator Partnership consists of RCBI, the Marshall University Research Corporation, TechConnect West Virginia, the Concord University Research and Development Corporation and the Natural Capital Investment Fund.

VC2 is a program of the Natural Capital Investment Fund. It's funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. EDA, the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Benedum Foundation. It provides hands-on business development and coaching services to strengthen local food and farm businesses in four regions of West Virginia.

"This collaboration between the two Jobs Accelerator projects presents an opportunity to build lasting partnerships to advance economic development in West Virginia," says Mary Hunt, Senior Program Officer. "Innovation in traditional industries is the key to job and business growth."

Charlotte Weber, RCBI Director & CEO, said "Thanks to the timely support of the Benedum Foundation, we now will be able to amplify the efforts and outcomes of both these RJIAC awardees by combining RCBI's advanced technologies and workforce development programs with the VC2 food supply network."

Specific goals for the new initiative include:

  • Enhancing a local food system consortium in West Virginia.
  • Working with key participants in the local food system to complete the design of a food supply website and mobile application.
  • Introducing technology driven products and services related to the local food supply chain.
  • Delivering business management training related to quality control processes.

"The ultimate goal," Weber said, "will be to design new technologies for farm-to-market users that will transition to marketable products, useful innovations and, in the final analysis, new jobs and model programs to be shared with the nation."

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