Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

ROBOT AND CHICKEN; Bringing High-Tech to Food Georgia Tech Unveils Labs That Can Bolster the State's Food Processing Industry

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

ROBOT AND CHICKEN; Bringing High-Tech to Food Georgia Tech Unveils Labs That Can Bolster the State's Food Processing Industry

Article excerpt

Byline: VICKY ECKENRODE

ATLANTA -- A research facility to help Georgia's processing plants slice and dice their food more efficiently and safely opened Thursday in downtown Atlanta.

The first section of Georgia Tech's Food Processing Technology Building houses labs focused on automation and environmental improvements.

"These developments will help Georgia maintain a competitive edge," Georgia Tech President Wayne Clough said while dedicating the multimillion-dollar facility at its official opening.

The project took eight years to come together, during which time the school's research into food and poultry processes was scattered in various locations.

Inside the new, 36,000-square-foot building, robotic arms test picking up different-sized broiler chickens and a climate-controlled room simulates factory conditions to test new machine prototypes.

The technology created there has the potential to add investment to the state's already significant food processing industry, said Abit Massey, president of the Georgia Poultry Federation.

"It's important that we continue to be ahead of the curve in technology," he said. "While others are losing jobs, the poultry and food industry in Georgia are exporting product and importing money."

The $9.2 million facility was funded through state-issued bonds and money from the industry that has operations in Georgia.

The bonds provided $4.73 million, and the rest came from private funding. Officials still are trying to raise another $2.1 million to add to the building's space.

For home-grown companies in the state, the new facility allows them access to technology research that they would not be able to do on their own.

"This gives us the opportunity to become more automated, improve the quality and lower the costs," said Billy Crider, chairman and CEO of Crider Poultry Inc., a producer of cooked chicken products and a leading chicken canner in the United States based in Stillmore about an hour west of Savannah. …

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