OSU Center Helps Create Solutions for Businesses

Article excerpt

OKLAHOMA CITY -- John and Anne Niwa have been searching for more than a decade to find nutritional yet tasty food for the box turtles they breed.

Box turtles, it seems, can be finicky.

"They're kind of like kids," Anne said. "They like fruit better than vegetables."

Box turtles like worms, snails and minnows. But finding a mixture that provides the proper vitamins, is easy to produce and tastes good proved too much for the Gore-area breeders.

So the Niwas turned to Oklahoma State University's Food and Agricultural Products Research and Technology Center. Faculty and staff there are testing recipes on turtles supplied by the Niwas.

"They've had a couple of recipes," she said, "kind of like Rice Krispie bars but with worms and fruit."

The partnership between the Niwas and OSU is one of about 50 cooperative projects the research and technology center is doing with businesses throughout Oklahoma.

First conceptualized about 10 years ago, the center opened in February at its $16 million plant on the OSU campus. With an annual budget of about $2.3 million, the faculty and staff members assist Oklahoma agriculture-related businesses with any number of needs ranging from developing business plans and market research, to engineering and product testing. The center has on staff microbiologists, food safety specialists, market researchers, economists and engineers.

The center's director, Lowell Satterlee, said the center is looked upon as being a research and development facility for the state. However, he said the staff's most important task is helping entrepreneurs determine whether their product really can find a market -- and if so, how big that market is.

"You've got to learn to crawl before you can walk before you can run," he said.

In addition to working directly with companies, the center offers educational short courses on topics such as food sanitation, business plan development for entrepreneurs and "sensory evaluation," or product tasting. …