The Food Business Innovation Network (Food BIN) is an informal collaboration of public and private organizations working together to provide access to facilities and technical assistance for aspiring food processors and other food & farm entrepreneurs.
Food BIN is coordinated by the Center for Community and Economic Development (CCED) at the UW-Cooperative Extension. In the summer of 2008, the Agricultural Innovation Center worked with its regional parnter Thrive, a regional economic development enterprise serving South Central Wisconsin, to explore the need for a food business incubator in the eight-courny region surrounding Madison. By February 2009 we co-sponsored a training program in Baraboo that drew about 90 people from around the state (and Iowa too!) who wanted to start “food business incubators” in their communities. After the February meeting the AIC established an email listserve to keep interested parties informed on the issue. This partnership also partnered with the Commonwealth Development of Madison in order to submit two successful grant proposals from the Wisconsin Department of Commerce and the U.S. Economic Development Administration. The grants have helped four communities get started and provided the impetus to form the FoodBIN program.
Resources developed by the CCED to support food business incubators and their clients are presented in the main pages listed at the top. The community-based projects that participate in FoodBIN are identified in sub pages to the left.
A food business incubator is similar to many other business incubators in its purpose to provide affordable space and technical assistance to help entrepreneurs to get started.
One difference with food business incubators is that the space and equipment is shared by many tenants who contract to use it as needed.
Some people use terms like “community kitchens” and “shared use kitchens” synonymously with food business incubators. We prefer the latter term to emphasize the provision of technical assistance that is common to most business incubators.
The National Business Incubator Association defines incubators and their key components here.