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June 27, 2012

MSU, Detroit plant seed for urban food system innovation

DETROIT, Mich. — Detroit and Michigan State University today took a significant step toward developing a broad program of food system innovation to promote local economic development, land recovery and food security. The aim is to position the city as a world center for urban food systems technology and development.

A memorandum of understanding signed by Mayor Dave Bing and MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon calls for a program dubbed the MetroFoodPlus Innovation Cluster @ Detroit, laying groundwork for more detailed conversations with community stakeholders and prospective partners.

“Detroit, with the assistance of MSU and many others, has the opportunity to redefine metropolitan food and agriculture for the 21st century,” Bing said. “We want to demonstrate that innovation based on metropolitan food production can create new businesses and jobs, return idle land to productivity and grow a more environmentally sustainable and economically vital city.”

“Michigan State is committed to making this a community-centered, collaborative program focusing both on developing Detroit’s vast potential and demonstrating the concept’s applicability to a rapidly urbanizing world,” Simon said. “By 2050, food production will need to double – using less water and energy than today. We see great opportunity to do good locally and connect globally.”

The university is seeding the program with an initial three-year commitment, chiefly through faculty effort representing colleges including Agriculture and Natural Resources, plus the MSU AgBioResearch office and MSU Extension.

A research-oriented innovation center is proposed to anchor the cluster, developing cutting-edge technologies in land-based and indoor growing systems. Idle properties could be repurposed for production of high-value vegetables and nonfood crops such as biofuel plants. Season-extending technologies for use in greenhouses and “hoop houses” could be introduced to produce food year-round with greater efficiencies and productivity.

Detroit will be connected to an international community of cities seeking innovative solutions to 21st-century food, water and energy challenges for urban populations. Michigan State is the home of the network, The Global Innoversity.

“We salute the urban food work already being carried out by so many highly committed Detroiters and community-based organizations. The opportunity ahead is to address our current critical development needs through expanding the urban food agenda in Detroit, connecting our work to other major cities around the world and positioning the city to be a leader in new food growing technologies for the future,” MSU’s MetroFoodPlus program co-director Rick Foster said.

The partnership builds on MSU’s long presence in Detroit, including educational partnerships, business and government consulting and Extension support for farmers’ markets and urban gardens.

“Michigan State University is America’s pioneer land-grant university,” Simon said. “As we celebrate the sesquicentennial of the Morrill “land-grant” Act, we are proud to help define land-grant engagement for a new century in – and with – Detroit.”

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Michigan State University has been working to advance the common good in uncommon ways for more than 150 years. One of the top research universities in the world, MSU focuses its vast resources on creating solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges, while providing life-changing opportunities to a diverse and inclusive academic community through more than 200 programs of study in 17 degree-granting colleges.