Category Archives: Food and Health

Virginia Tech goes full steam ahead with hops research

Hop flowersWith more than 100 craft breweries, Virginia is quickly emerging as a significant player in the East Coast beer scene. Membership in the Old Dominion Hops Cooperative has grown from about 20 members to more than 80 over the past two years.

The burgeoning craft beer industry supports more than 8,000 jobs in the commonwealth and has a $623 million economic impact on the state, according to the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild.

And Virginia Tech is helping the commonwealth dive into the suds business. The university is currently conducting two studies — one examines the fermentation of hops, and the other studies the crop itself.

Holly Scoggins, associate professor of horticulture, is leading the research on the crop. She will head up the experimental hops yard that will be planted this fall with $8,900 in grant funding from the Virginia Agricultural Council. Scoggins is hoping to determine which hop varieties are best-suited to Virginia’s shorter summer days and most resistant to Mid-Atlantic pests.

“I’m excited,” said Scoggins. “There is a dearth of information out there, and we can be of service to our Extension agents who may get questions about hops production.”

A popular variety she plans to experiment with is Cascades.

Scoggins is also collaborating with faculty members from the Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science to study downy mildew resistance in hops.

While the craft brewing industry is growing, Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic lag far behind in hops production. One acre of hops plants in Oregon produces between 1,000 and 2,000 pounds of dried hops. Meanwhile, the same variety grown in North Carolina yields 160 to 320 pounds of dried hops, according to research done by North Carolina State University.

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New building cooks up industry engagement

Dupont and Virginia Tech collaborate for best food safety packaging practices.

Virginia Tech and DuPont Teijin Films have teamed up to create an environment in the new Human and Agricultural Biosciences Building 1 where companies can test the best ways to prepare and package foods.

Virginia’s manufacturing industry contributes $34 billion to the gross state product and accounts for more than 80 percent of the state’s exports to the global economy.

The faculty members housed in the newly constructed Human and Agricultural Biosciences Building 1 facility haven’t wasted any time in establishing symbiotic relationships with industry. The space has allowed collaborations on research that provide the university with advanced tools while delivering world-class, faculty-led research to industry leaders.

One company that has partnered with Virginia Tech is DuPont Teijin Films. Joe Marcy, department head and professor of food science and technology, brokered the arrangement, and now a gleaming, German-made Multivac R120 food packager graces the pilot plant space on the ground floor of HABB1.

DuPont Teijin Films is partnering with Virginia Tech to test the performance of various food-packaging films before they roll out the machinery on their own production lines.

The partnership saves DuPont Teijin Films valuable time and money because the company doesn’t have to cut into its own production time.

As a client, DuPont Teijin Films can also bring its own chefs and marketing staff to the facilities at Virginia Tech and have unfettered access to the equipment they are working with for research and development purposes.

“I get a chance to work with decision-makers every day and to expose them to the capabilities that Virginia Tech has to offer,” Marcy said.

Virginia’s manufacturing industry contributes $34 billion to the gross state product and accounts for more than 80 percent of the state’s exports to the global economy.

“The real value is the exposure to the food industry and the people I want to engage with,” said Marcy.

For Marcy, the area in HABB1 is more than a pilot plant — it’s an industry engagement space.

It’s all part of the vision Marcy has for creating an “Innovation Collaboratory” with packaging machinery, a full test kitchen, and a food science laboratory where all manner of commercial cooking methods can be tested — everything from conventional home oven cooking to sous vide, a method where food is cooked over a long period of time at a low temperature in vacuum-sealed plastic.

The space is also an incubator for other research opportunities, several of which are already in the hopper, like the new beer brewing equipment that will soon be online.

And Marcy won’t be stopping there. The wide-open space of the plant can be configured to whatever may present itself as a research opportunity that can benefit the food industry.

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