Its research is leading the way to healthier crops, fostering the next generation of culinary innovators, and expanding the multibillion-dollar food and agriculture industry in New York State.
It’s Cornell AgriTech in Geneva.
The applied research arm of Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell AgriTech and its allied facilities are playing an increasingly vital role in launching and growing food and beverage companies in the Finger Lakes.
And now, they are also part of the City of Geneva’s Food and Beverage Industry Consortium, a newly-created group working to drive further innovation and growth in the industry locally.
Locate Finger Lakes, also a member of the City’s consortium, takes a look at the innovative work led by Cornell AgriTech and others on its campus, including the Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture, Cornell Food Venture Center, The Technology Farm, FLCC Viticulture and Wine Center
Cornell AgriTech is the new name for the former New York State Agricultural Experiment Station. For over 130 years, Cornell AgriTech has been at the forefront of food and agriculture research that has propelled business growth in the region and state. Simply put, Cornell AgriTech grows fruit, vegetables and the industries they support.
“Food and agriculture are multibillion-dollar industries for the New York State economy,” said Jan Nyrop, Director of Cornell AgriTech. “For over 100 years, our innovations have translated into new methods and technologies for growers, and delivered practical solutions that help farmers and businesses thrive.”
Campus innovations have spurred the growth of agribusinesses throughout the state. These inventions include more than 280 new varieties of fruits and vegetables, pioneering breakthroughs for pest control, and new pasteurization techniques to improve crops.
“Geneva is fortunate to have Cornell AgriTech and its campus partners leading the way locally and globally in innovation, problem-solving and support for the agriculture, food and beverage sectors,” said Sage Gerling, City Manager for the City of Geneva.
Today, Cornell AgriTech is advancing the study of plants, from sources of bioenergy to emerging crops like industrial hemp that offer promising opportunities for growers.
This work takes place on more than 900 acres of fields, orchards and vineyards, on 12 research farms, and in 17,500 square feet of greenhouse space.
Cornell AgriTech research and innovation is a key reason why New York State is home to 450 wineries, ranking No. 4 in the nation; 430 craft beverage producers, ranking No. 3 in the nation; 180 distilleries, ranking No. 2 in the nation; and 65 cideries, ranking No. 1 in the nation.
Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture
The newest addition to the Cornell AgriTech campus is the Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture, recently created by New York state to connect food and agriculture startups and established businesses with the resources they need to grow, including: research and commercialization support, mentorship and strategic partnerships, and specialized equipment including lab and kitchen space.
The Center can help businesses with food safety evaluation and validation; techniques to increase productivity or yields; funding through government, banks, and venture capital; and access to suppliers, food co-packers and sales outlets.
Launched in 2018, the Center of Excellence has already worked with more than 50 companies who have collectively raised over $12 million in capital to grow their businesses.
One of them is Geneva-based RealEats.
Located in the Geneva Enterprise Development Center, within the City’s Innovation Kitchen, RealEats is the first company to deliver locally-sourced, chef-prepared meals directly to homes across America. The company selected Geneva because of its central location in the Finger Lakes agricultural region.
“The bounty of this region in both agriculture and talent is a perfect match for RealEats,” founder Dan Wise said.
RealEats is now embarking on a major expansion at its Geneva facility that is expected to create up to 400 additional jobs over the next five years.
“The Center of Excellence is pushing new endeavors in food and agriculture toward success, growing existing companies, and attracting businesses from other states and countries into New York,” said Cathy Young, Director of the Center of Excellence. “The magnet for these opportunities is the expertise and breakthroughs of Cornell research.”
Cornell Food Venture Center
Also located at Cornell AgriTech, the Cornell Food Venture Center helps startups and established entrepreneurs bring new food products to market. It offers direct assistance over the entire product life cycle — from development to commercialization — and in areas including regulatory compliance and referrals to lenders, suppliers and others.
Established in 1988, the Food Venture Center celebrated its 30th anniversary last year by unveiling renovations to its high-tech Pilot Plant, which features the latest innovations in food processing and preservation. The upgrades were made possible by $13 million in state funding.
New technologies available at the Food Venture Center include continuous pasteurizers to produce safe beverages for refrigerated or shelf-stable products; batch pasteurizers for bottled products; commercial pressure cookers to produce shelf-stable foods packaged in cans, glass or pouches; and, concentration and dehydration equipment to maximize the quality and longevity of liquids, sauces, jams, jellies and pastes.
The Cornell Food Venture Center has helped more than 13,000 food entrepreneurs commercialize more than 20,000 products.
Among the companies that have benefited from the Food Venture Center are Geneva-based Red Jacket Orchards, Cheribundi and Stony Brook Wholehearted Foods.
Stony Brook is a maker of specialty culinary oils and seed snacks made exclusively from domestically-sourced seeds – one of only a few companies in America doing so. It is also a member of the City of Geneva’s Food and Beverage Industry Consortium.
Stony Brook is also located at The Technology Farm, another prominent facility on the campus of Cornell AgriTech.
The Technology Farm
The Technology Farm, or Tech Farm for short, is a New York-certified business incubator for food, agriculture and biotechnology startups. The 72-acre campus features a 20,000-square-foot Flex Tech Building enabling tenants to take newly developed products from the lab into a commercial production environment.
The Tech Farm is currently home to 12 businesses. In addition to Stony Brook Wholehearted Foods, they include Empire Cider Company, the creator of premium craft hard ciders made from locally-grown apples, Cobblestone Coffee Roasters, and Finger Lakes Harvest, makers of locally-sourced drink mixers and tonics.
Assured Edge Solutions also grew from the Tech Farm. It creates powders and other products from agricultural and food waste that was previously discarded as unusable. The company is a member of the City of Geneva’s Food and Beverage Industry Consortium.
Cheribundi was also grown with support from the Tech Farm and the Cornell Food Venture Center. Founded in 2004, the company is a leading producer of tart cherry juice products crafted through a one-of-a-kind juicing process developed by Cornell scientists. It now operates in its own 100,000-square-foot facility in the Town of Geneva and employs over 50 people.
“The Tech Farm offers companies access to innovative research, pilot plant facilities, and operational support to achieve the next level of success,” said John Johnson, Director of the Tech Farm. “Our flexible policies regarding the development and ownership of intellectual property make the Tech Farm business-friendly and provide a unique competitive advantage.”
The Tech Farm was built in 2005 with state funding secured by former state Sen. Michael Nozzolio, who is a Cornell University graduate and Tech Farm board member.
“The Tech Farm is a state-of-the-art facility that offers businesses access to the brightest minds in food and agriculture research at Cornell,” said Nozzolio, Chairman of Locate Finger Lakes. “With space for additional expansion and private development, the Tech Farm will help accelerate innovation and growth in Geneva’s food and beverage industry.”
Finger Lakes Community College Viticulture and Wine Center
Based on the Tech Farm campus, the FLCC Viticulture and Wine Center includes a winemaking lab, teaching vineyard, and the college’s two-year associate in applied science degree in viticulture and wine technology. The Center enables future wine industry professionals to study at a location where some of the most advanced agricultural research is taking place.
The degree program is the only one of its kind in the Northeast, combining courses in the science of winemaking with hands-on experience in commercial vineyards.
For the fourth consecutive year, student-made wines at the Viticulture and Wine Center received medals at the New York Wine Classic, a competition that is considered “The Oscars®” of the New York State wine industry.
These and other programs available at FLCC, as well as Geneva’s Hobart and William Smith Colleges, play a vital role in providing skilled workers for local food and beverage companies.