VANTAGE's Global Food Sustainability: Economics and the Environment class participated in an all-day site visit to SunOpta, a leading global company in the organic/non-GMO food products industry.
The day began with a visit to a farm that supplies soybeans to SunOpta. The farmer talked to the class about the challenges of large-scale organic growing, and some of the unique practices needed to be a successful grower in this expanding food products niche. Next, the team visited a SunOpta processing plant in Hope, Minn., where surrounding organic farms ship their soy and corn products for processing. Students saw up-close the various machines used to clean, sort, and process the soybeans.
"This was an excellent way for students to see the way food makes it from the farm to the store," said Dawn Norton, VANTAGE instructor for Global Food Sustainability. "It showcased the many unknown elements of processing, food research and development, food safety compliance and the many other components involved with feeding our world."
Following lunch, the students visited SunOpta's global headquarters in Edina. They listened to a presentation on research-and-development jobs in the food industry, then sampled "under-development" products and learned how SunOpta's Barista Blend of soy milk was developed, from concept to market. Lastly, the students took a tour of the research labs and learned about the steps taken to ensure regulatory compliance in labeling and marketing food products.
"I especially enjoyed visiting SunOpta headquarters because it really showed us the multitude of career possibilities found in the field of food sciences/sustainability," said Priscilla Trinh, a current VANTAGE student. "I believe students [like me] benefit by seeing the principles learned in class being applied on a grand scale."
In addition to hosting this all-day event, two SunOpta employees mentor students in the program. VANTAGE is also currently in talks with SunOpta to partner on a spring semester hands-on student project.