Jeff Canavan

Associate Director, Engineering & Operations
Rutgers University Food Innovation Center

Jeff has worked with the group since 1991. As an Industrial Engineering undergraduate, he conducted research for the CAFT Combat Rations Advanced Manufacturing Technology Demonstration (CRAMTD) in Sensor databases, Motion studies, and CAD. Upon graduation, he served the CAFT group as a Research Engineer at the Food Science Building until the entire group of 12 moved to the FMT Facility (now FIC – N) in 1993.

He supported R&D projects for the CRAMTD program setting up and validating packaging lines and package integrity testing equipment for Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) and tray packs. Jeff was promoted to Senior Manager, Facility Operations in 1996.  He was responsible for the day-to-day building support and staff issues operating the 31,000 sq. ft off-campus facility, including the USDA inspected 7,800 sq. ft plant, and managing the Developmental Manufacture (DM) program. To cost share expenses, the DM project to produce food for civilian sale using ration production equipment was ramped up. Process and product development work in refrigerated, ready-to-eat products such as Macaroni & Cheese, tortellini, and beverages continued after key investments were made to reduce labor and triple production output.

In 2000, Jeff shifted his efforts to more DoD project work as the System Design & Engineering, Senior Manager. Over the next 12 years, he continued with facility and plant activities, including support of various clients and products including the Soup Guy of Seinfeld fame, Unilever, Manischewitz, Philadelphia Fresh Bake, Dewy Meadows, and Chefmark. The Rutgers team would go on to be awarded the majority of the projects issued by CORANET programs, the successors to CRAMTD. Some of Jeff’s notable projects include:

    • Ultrasonic Sealing Implementation, Package Sealing, Package Integrity & Validation
    • Knurled Seal Package Sealing, Package Integrity & Validation
    • Universal Benchtop Tester, Non-destructive Residual Gas
    • Measurement of Polytrays and MREs.
    • System Analysis of Rapid Assembly of Unified Group Rations.
    • Machine Vision Seal Area Inspection for Polymeric Trays (MVSAI).
    • Polymeric Traypack Integrity: Bench-Scale Unit, Leak Detection.
    • Multiple Unit Leak Detector (MULD) Upgrade Project, MRE pouches.
    • Machine Vision Inspection of Pouch Seal Areas.
    • Poly Tray Packaging Evaluation, Baked Goods, Production Feasibility and Manufacturing

Jeff shifted some focus back to Operations as the Engineering & Operations, Executive Manager in 2012. With declining DoD research needs, the group began to recruit, host, and support more client activity in-house. Jeff now uses his experience and institutional knowledge to serve and mentor clients and while providing a stable work environment.