From Kansas - Punching Above Our Weight Guide

Cooking up New Ideas in America’s Breadbasket

Kansas is home to multiple R&D operations, influencing everything from farm fields to after-school snacks.

Agriculture / Agribusiness
Photo: Getty Images

In July 2019, the USDA relocated major research agencies from Washington D.C. to the Kansas City region. While the agency is technically located on the Missouri side of the bi-state city, the significance of the site shines a bright spotlight on Kansas’ agricultural prominence.

The USDA’s Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture announced its plan to relocate to the Kansas City region after a competitive bidding process. The USDA received 136 proposals from 35 different states. Kansas and Missouri submitted a joint proposal to the USDA. The move puts USDA employees closer to farmers and other agricultural interests such as the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor, the single largest concentration of animal health ventures in the world. The move from Washington to a lower-cost site also saves taxpayer dollars.

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture conducts research into food conservation, nutrition, and ways to enhance to the nation’s food supply. The Economic Research Service analyzes the farm economy, food safety and global trade, among other topics.

“This is a significant win for Kansas and Missouri,” Gov. Laura Kelly said.

Agricultural Research Points to the Midwest

In December 2019, Compass Minerals Plant Nutrition expanded its R&D capabilities with the opening of a new North American Innovation Center. The 14,000 square foot facility located in the Midwest Bioscience Research Park in Stilwell, features a 3,400 square foot greenhouse, growth chamber and 14 acres of field trials. It is the company’s second innovation center dedicated to support the development of plant nutrition technologies. The first center opened in Brazil in 2017.

“Our goal is to directly influence farmer growing practices through science,” said Bartlett, vice president innovation and product development. “In the world of agriculture R&D, the lion’s share of funding has consistently gone toward advanced breeding techniques, developing transgenics and crop protection products. We’re working to compound the gains realized with those innovations by developing similar advances in plant nutrition.”

A diverse staff of chemists, agronomists, soil scientists, engineers, geologists and plant physiologists make up the research team focused on proprietary product development and application processes. With on-site chemistry and formulations expertise, the company is focused on balancing the right combination of business acumen and science to accelerate product realization and speed to market.

R&D’s Sweet Spot

In June, one of America’s top snack food makers, Hostess Brands, opened a new Innovation Lab in Lenexa where it employs around 20 researchers, product testers and bakers who will develop new product lines based on consumer tastes.

“The Hostess Innovation Lab enables product innovation to the highest level of consumer delight, ensuring that the most desired products are going to market with the utmost quality and sustainability,” said Darryl Riley, Hostess’s SVP of Quality, Food Safety and R&D. “The Innovation Lab gives us the testing capabilities, analytics and market research insights we need to support innovation that meets consumer needs and expectations — such as the Hostess Hot Fudge Sundae CupCakes recently conceived and tested for early 2021 production. As the category leader, we take it upon ourselves to make a sustained investment in this consumer-centric area of our business.”

Savannah King
Managing Editor of Custom Content

Savannah King

Savannah King is managing editor of custom content for Conway Inc. She is an award-winning journalist and previously wrote for The Times in Gainesville, Ga. She graduated from the University of West Florida with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and lives near Atlanta.


Businesses that plant their roots in America's Heartland reap the benefits year over year.

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