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FLORIDA CULINARY ACCELERATOR @ IMMOKALEE RECEIVES USDA GRANT

Post Date:05/23/2017 1:26 PM

FLORIDA CULINARY ACCELERATOR @ IMMOKALEE RECEIVES USDA GRANT

Collier County has just been awarded more federal dollars to boost Immokalee’s economic development.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) gave Collier County’s Florida Culinary Accelerator @ Immokalee a $112,536 USDA Rural Business Development Grant last week, the latest step to complete a state-of-the-art commercial kitchen designed to transform local food entrepreneurs’ products into successful businesses.

The Board of County Commissioners applied for the grant in July 2016 to purchase kitchen equipment for the 5,274-square-foot culinary accelerator currently under construction inside a converted warehouse at the Immokalee Regional Airport.

“The accelerator will diversify our economy by providing a state-of-the-art commercial kitchen, and a robust program for getting food products to the market,” said Jace Kentner, director of Collier County’s Office of Business & Economic Development. “Our intent is to help food entrepreneurs access resources while also promoting Immokalee’s massive fruit and vegetable resources.”

Local farmers and chef entrepreneurs often struggle to produce products that require a certified commercial kitchen because they’re expensive to build and maintain, Kentner said, adding that the accelerator will provide an affordable kitchen space meeting local, state, and federal FDA and USDA standards. The University of Florida’s Institute of Food & Agricultural Sciences’ Southwest Florida Research & Education Center in Immokalee will provide an adjacent food testing lab.

The culinary accelerator, which will be completed by June 30 and open soon after, is designed for use by farmers, start-up food companies and home-kitchen chef entrepreneurs, as well as mid-size food companies, retailers and commercial users. Future phases include plans for commercial juicers, an alcohol-distillation machine and an HPP machine, a hyperbaric non-heated pressurization process that’s superior to pasteurization and will keep food, produce and juices fresher and safer for longer periods.

The culinary accelerator recently signed a partnership deal with three-star Michelin-rated French chef Christian Le Squer. Woodstock’s Market, located beneath the Naples Accelerator at 3510 Kraft Road, Naples, Florida 34105, will enable the culinary accelerator’s users to market their products immediately.

For more information, contact Aisling Swift, economic research analyst for the Collier County Office of Business & Economic Development, at (239) 252-8591 or AislingSwift@colliergov.net.

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