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September 6, 2018 | last updated September 6, 2018 1:16 pm

Yarmouth entrepreneur leads effort to keep Fork Food Lab open

An effort is under way to save the Fork Food Lab, an incubator for startup food businesses in Portland that is slated to be closed by the end of this month.

In August, Brooklyn-based Pilotworks announced it was closing the Fork Food Lab on Sept. 30 and evicting its members. Pilotworks CEO Zach Ware told the Bangor Daily News at that time that the West Bayside test kitchen and food business incubator was closing because "operating sustainably was not feasible long term."

Pilotworks, formerly named Foodworks, acquired Fork Food Lab in June 2017 from Fork's founders, Neil Spillane and Eric Holstein. In a FAQ page on its website, Pilotworks stated all members' storage and equipment would need to be removed from the lab's site by Oct. 5.

The Portland Press Herald reported that Bill Seretta, president of The Sustainability Lab in Yarmouth and chairman of the Maine Food System Innovation Challenge, is leading the effort by a group of investors and entrepreneurs to save the lab.

He declined to name other investors involved in the effort to keep Fork Food Lab open as a nonprofit, but told the newspaper he was "pretty confident this is going to work out."

Seretta told the Press Herald he was hopeful a deal to keep the lab open would become official in the next couple of weeks.

Maine Startup Insider, which broke the story on Aug. 24 about the local group's efforts to save Fork Food Lab, quoted Seretta as saying the food incubator is a key to boosting Maine's local food movement.

"It's not the solution," he told Maine Startup's Whit Richardson, "but it's a piece of a really interesting puzzle of how food systems develop in local and rural areas. If you want to see local foods being used, you have to build infrastructure to support that. You won't see it otherwise."

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