Today,  a non-profit ag & food tech incubator AgStart is announced that Raley’s, the family-owned regional grocery chain, will sponsor the Raley’s Food Lab at The Lab@AgStart incubator in Woodland,  California.

The Raley’s Food Lab will be a certified food facility where innovators can develop new food products,  ingredients, and recipes for taste testing, sampling, and small-volume sales. The facility will be fully outfitted with kitchen and food preparation equipment and will be reservable for use by established and aspiring food entrepreneurs.

The Raley’s Food Lab will provide an ideal location for food entrepreneurs to experiment and test new foods and food ingredients in a region renowned for its vibrant agriculture and food innovation ecosystem. Raley’s will also provide entrepreneurs with mentorship and support to help scale their businesses to prepare to sell at retail. Yolo County is known for its diverse agricultural production, and  Woodland is the home of several global and local food processing firms.

Michael Teel,  Raley’s owner

“Raley’s takes great pride operating our business in one of the richest agricultural hubs in the world. We are excited about what this region represents for the future of food production,” said Michael Teel,  Raley’s owner. “The Raley’s Food Lab will support food entrepreneurs, who will lead the way to a better food system. We look forward to discovering new products and helping to bring them to our store  shelves.”

According to a 2019 report by consulting firm ESI, the rise of food entrepreneurship, combined with a  changing food system, has generated increased demand for shared-use kitchen incubators. The recent pandemic has only accelerated the ongoing changes in food production and consumption. Consumers are demanding healthier products and more interested than ever in sustainable, local and artisanal foods.

“Having access to the Raley’s Food Lab will be instrumental for us, enabling us to produce samples of our ingredients for our corporate partners to evaluate. This will help accelerate our product development cycles,” said Anupama Ranganathan, co-founder and chief technology officer of InnovaNutra, Inc., a UC  Davis spinout creating plant-based food ingredients to improve flavor, nutrition and shelf-life. “There are very few alternative facilities in our Sacramento region. We previously had to travel several hundred  miles to the Bay Area or northern parts of California to prepare samples of our product.”

As a part of the larger Lab@AgStart incubator, Raley’s Food Lab users will also be able to take advantage of The Lab@AgStart’s co-working office space, as well as AgStart’s business mentoring and advisory services. When it opens April 1st, the Lab@AgStart will be the largest wet-lab incubator facility in the state of California that has an agriculture and food focus, and the only startup incubator in the state combining both a food lab and comprehensive wet lab facility. “A unique advantage of our facility is that entrepreneurs can prepare a new combination of ingredients and cooking techniques in the Raley’s  Food Lab, and then immediately take their creation into the Yocha Dehe Lab to assess it for nutrient content and other health attributes,” said Leanna Sweha, AgStart Program Director. “The Lab@AgStart  facility will help startups commercialize new innovations for a more sustainable food system, and our  facility itself will emphasize sustainability.”

The Lab@AgStart will be located at the Woodland Corporate Center, 1100 Main Street, in downtown  Woodland, CA, within convenient walking distance of restaurants, coffee shops, and other businesses.  “The Lab@AgStart will be powered in part by renewable energy generated by our on-site solar-covered parking and will have energy-efficient LED lighting, UV-C disinfecting HVAC, and other upgrades focused on sustainability and the comfort of our tenants,” said Brian Wills, Chief Operating Officer of The  Wiseman Company, which developed and operates Woodland Corporate Center.

Raley’s joins a unique public-private partnership that has come together to fund the $1.5M  Lab@AgStart, a shared-use incubator for entrepreneurs and innovators in Ag | Food | Health in  Woodland. Previously announced sponsors include The Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, which is the sponsor of the Yocha Dehe Lab, as well as the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the County of Yolo, and the City of Woodland.