The manufacturing of plant-based foods such as the Impossible Burger is a growing and evolving market that requires engineers and contractors to design and build research and production facilities that are agile and reconfigurable since the segment’s products change so quickly. “The North Carolina Food Innovation Lab is all [built] around scaling up plant-based products at the NC Research Campus,” says Jason Robertson, food and beverage market director at CRB. “That entire facility has been built and laid out to seek new ideas around bringing commercial products to market.” The Food Innovation lab is the first U.S. facility of its type built to the Current Good Manufacturing Practice standard enforced by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. CRB designed and built the $7.2-million, 14,000-sq-ft facility to include spaces for product development, research and quality assurance labs, CGMP rooms, processing areas, collaboration spaces, cold storage and equipment storage. The lab’s modular design allows food processing equipment such as mushroom fermenters to be updated as needed.
Mike Mehrwin, former VDC manager at CRB, says the first plant-based food producer to market—such as the Impossible Burger—typically captures 70% of the market share. Speed to market has ripple effects for packaging, product production and the scaling up of equipment and manufacturing facilities. CRB uses Autodesk Construction Cloud collaboration to stay ahead of short deadlines.