Cornell has established a new Center of Excellence in Food and Agriculture at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York, thanks to $1 million in state funding secured by State Sen. Pam Helming, R, C, I-Canandaigua.
Funding will start July 1 and will be renewed annually over an initial five-year period. The state currently helps fund 11 Centers of Excellence. The new Cornell center will be the first of its kind to facilitate academic and business connections and collaborations to grow the New York agriculture and food economy.
“The establishment of [the Center of Excellence in Food and Agriculture] is great news for our community, local farmers, and New York’s agricultural industry,” Helming said. “Agriculture is our area’s largest job creator, and Cornell has long been recognized as an extremely valuable industry partner. It made sense to recognize the Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences with the Center of Excellence designation.”
The center will serve as a hub to connect New York businesses with services they need for success by linking them with world-class Cornell researchers, farmers, processors, businesses and consumers. It will pull together multiple partners to accelerate business development.
“The ultimate goal of the center is to increase the size and scope of the food and agriculture economy in the state of New York,” said Jan Nyrop, Cornell professor and director of Cornell’s Agricultural Experiment Station. “This is about adding jobs and opportunities and helping to create new companies, new products and grow existing businesses.”
New York state’s food manufacturing sector is the nation’s second largest, behind only California in the number of food-related businesses, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. New York ranks in the top 10 in production of 30 commodities. It is the second-largest producer of apples, snap beans and maple syrup, third in cabbage, grapes and dairy – the largest segment of the state’s agricultural sector – and fourth in pears, according to the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.
Still, rural areas face economic challenges, a gap the center hopes to help fill by promoting economic growth and jobs, Nyrop said: “What we are lacking sometimes is a way of integrating all of our strengths; research, entrepreneurship, human talent, infrastructure, natural resources, and a large number of consumers.”
In partnership with the Cornell Agriculture and Technology Park in Geneva, the Center of Excellence plans an incubator program for startups that provides entrepreneurship training, business mentorship and space. Through a mentor network, participants will connect with distributors and marketers, potential partners, co-packing and manufacturing facilities and other existing resources.
The Cornell center will promote digital agriculture and assist in bringing technical products to market, expand technology-related business and employment, and encourage private-sector investment in emerging high-tech fields. In addition, it will help to commercialize Cornell food and agriculture-related innovations, inventions and intellectual property.
“Thanks to Senator Helming, the Center of Excellence will leverage the strengths of our local food and farm communities and help create new businesses that will push growth even further,” said Kathryn Boor ’80, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “We can’t wait to get to work with our partners.”
Initial partners include the Cornell Center for Regional Economic Advancement, the Cornell Agriculture and Technology Park, Wegmans Food Markets, Empire State Development, Cornell Cooperative Extension, the New York State Regional Economic Development Councils, and the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.