Locate Finger Lakes Business Journal

Assured Edge Solutions: Growing Through Innovation

Editor’s Note: LOCATE Finger Lakes is proud to promote and tell the story of AES, and its innovative founder, Dan Rao. We’re very glad Dan’s business is growing and expanding in the Finger Lakes and we wish him all the best for continued success. – Mike Nozzolio, Chairman, LOCATE Finger Lakes

Vegetables aren’t the only things growing in the Finger Lakes. Assured Edge Solutions (AES), a custom vegetable processing and co-packing company, is expanding its manufacturing operations and creating up to 21 new jobs. AES will be the first tenant in the new Manufacturing building at the Cornell Agriculture and Food Technology Park campus in Geneva.

This news comes as no surprise to those who know how intensely committed the company is to growth and innovation. “My favorite thing to do is to innovate,” says Dan Rao, Founder and CEO of AES. “Clients come to us with a challenge, and we turn out something really cool at the end.”

Photo left to right: COO, Keir Meisner, Founder and CEO, Dan Rao

Dan tells the story of a leading national grocery chain that approached AES to help them develop new products. “In four and a half months, we went from a napkin sketch to retail store freezers. It wasn’t a question of if we were going to do it, but how fast. They were ecstatic because they found a partner to take on hard challenges.”

A Deep Commitment to the Finger Lakes Region

Dan says that he chose to locate his company in Geneva, NY because Bill Strassburg, vice president of strategic initiatives at Wegmans strongly recommended the Cornell Agriculture and Food Technology Park as the best place for AES to be.

Bill told Dan that the proximity to Cornell AgriTech, food entrepreneurs, and agriculture made Geneva unlike anywhere else. Dan found that to be true through and through. He said “I view the Finger Lakes as a food ecosystem with four key parts,” he explains. “World-class farms. Innovation from small companies willing to go out on a limb. Proximity to Cornell with food science and food safety. And the connection with retailers who will buy it if we make it.”

AES’s clients, like Dr. Cowan’s Garden organic vegetable powders, were thrilled to find Dan and his team in Upstate NY.

Asher Cowan, Dr. Cowan’s Garden CEO said, “We had outgrown our own production capacity and were looking for a production partner local to our partner farms in the Upstate NY and PA region. Dan and his team put in attention to detail and quality.”

Dr. Cowan’s Garden’s customer reviews have improved since working with the AES team. More than 90% of their reviews are 5 stars. Cowan said “They’ve been a great partner from the start, and we look forward to many years of collaboration.”

Collaboration is a common thread for Dan. He has talked about how pleasantly surprised he has been experiencing the connectivity of the food businesses in the Finger Lakes region, “We’re able to share the workload. From startups to tenured companies, there’s a sense of collaboration that is really unique. People will give others advice even when it doesn’t directly benefit them. That’s pretty great.”

This support has significantly benefited the company’s focus, both with their model of taking foods and turning them into powders and also with custom solution copacking. The copacking aspect of the business has seen a significant spike during the pandemic.

Another one of AES’s clients, Jesha’s Bakery, works with Dan and his team on their line of sourdough baking mixes. Jesha Stevens, the company Founder shared how grateful they were to have found the AES team: “We came to AES with a product that no one had made before, and we were blown away by the thought and care they put into research and development, and their genuine interest in seeing us succeed. By relying heavily on the expertise of their team, and enlisting the help of Cornell’s Center of Excellence and the Pilot Plant, we were able to create a custom manufacturing process and produce our first batch of products.” Jesha’s Bakery sells their sourdough baking mixes direct-to-consumer on their website,

Another reason Jesha loves working with AES is because of their proximity to regional farmers, “A huge part of our mission is sourcing locally grown and milled grains from the region, so it was extra special to have the baking mixes created just a short distance from where the flour was milled.”

A Deep Commitment to People

Founded in 2012, AES is a people-first company. “We’re focused on working with good people who want to turn out good work,” Dan explains. “The niche we fill is customized solutions so one of our biggest assets is our people. As we grow, we will add more people and more equipment, but the day I see one big piece of machinery running everything is the day I’ll close the company.”

Both Dan and his COO, Keir Meisner, came from big industries, but they strongly believe in entrepreneurs. Dan was a defense contractor who moved into sales after a round of layoffs at his former company. “I drifted my way into food and fell in love with the simplicity of it. I was pitching a sweet potato pancake flour product when I realized I could do it on my own. And that’s what I did.”

He sees the future of AES as growing by adding people and new processes to keep the company uniquely innovative and relevant. Dan also sees his continued role as fighting for the little guy. “We created a consumer-facing brand called Healthier Way when we first started. When we first launched, I couldn’t do it under one roof. And I realized that I wanted to show that I believed in the little guy. The chance to create this solution for others is what fuels our passion.”

Maureen Ballatori is a LOCATE Finger Lakes Business Journal contributing writer and a member of the organization’s board of directors. She owns 29 Design Studio, a Finger Lakes-based branding and marketing agency that specializes in food, beverage and agriculture. She is also a partner in Metro Collective, a collaborative network of people, ideas, and shared space communities in the Greater Rochester and Finger Lakes regions.

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