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Guest Appearance: Farming of the future: A New Era of Innovation and Economic Development

New York State Agriculture and Experiment Station

Allow me to describe the scene: large rooms filled with state-of-the-art processing centers that provide precision diagnostic measurement and temperature control; control rooms with high-tech analytical equipment that regulate energy generation and monitor water purification systems.

Where are you? At a laboratory of a Silicon Valley high-tech company? Or in a research center at a technical institute or university?

The answer is neither. The activity described above takes place at a dairy farm in upstate New York. To be fair and accurate, the location, by most standards, is not a simple dairy farm, even though the successful dairy farms of today are anything but simple. What we’re seeing unfolding before us is farming of the future, and the heralding of a new era of innovation, entrepreneurship, energy generation, sustainability and technological advancement.

As the technological revolution served to increase the worldwide demand for food, our nation’s agricultural producers are making significant strides to meet the demand. After almost a decade of decline, America’s food exports are up over 9 percent compared to last year. This year dairy exports are up 25 percent, beef exports are up 16 percent, and the United States is exporting beef to China for the first time in 14 years.

This is an exciting time to be part of the expansion of agribusiness, which I am proud to do as a partner at Harris Beach, PLLC, and leader of our Food and Beverage Industry Team.

Agriculture in New York state has a long history of innovation and invention. For that legacy to successfully continue into the next century, more proven commercialized technology such as described above must be encouraged for New York agriculture. The successful farms of today and the future are agricultural technology companies, and the state must do more to pave the way for new waves of technology on the farm. By doing so, our state would help agribusiness have more tools to grow our economy, especially upstate, and continue our role as a world leader in agricultural production, energy generation, water purification and other issues relating to sustainability and conservation.

Last month, Dr. Kathryn J. Boor, Ph.D., the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, led a tour of New York agribusinesses in specialty agriculture that drives our state’s economy. The tour included Cayuga Milk Ingredients, LLC, a specialty milk protein processing plant in Cayuga County; the Noblehurst Farms, Inc. dairy, wastewater facility, digester, cheese plant and creamery in Livingston County; and Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. cheese processing caves. It was a wonderful showcase of New York agriculture, and also highlighted the significant role Cornell plays in the agricultural technological revolution.

Dean Boor is a leader and a passionate advocate for Cornell’s interdisciplinary, purpose-driven science that she describes as “enabling us to tackle the challenges of our time through world-renowned research, education, and outreach.”

Just this week a new alliance between Deere & Co. (John Deere), the tractor and heavy equipment company, and Cornell University was announced that could bring data science further into production agriculture. Syncing Cornell’s data platform, Ag-Analytics with John Deere’s Operation Center will make it easier than ever for farmers to access and analyze farm data. These innovative analytical tools will have broad implications in future crop production and environmental efficiencies and forecasts, and Cornell is leading the way as the first university to provide this integrated service.

During her tour, and throughout her everyday leadership at Cornell, Dean Boor emphasizes the need to highlight the vast amounts of innovation, sophisticated high technology, entrepreneurship and commitment to sustainability that exists in New York agriculture today. New York state must follow Dean Boor and Cornell’s lead to continue to assist our agricultural technology and other agribusiness leaders as they explore innovation, model environmental stewardship and drive job development in our state’s expanding food and beverage industry.

Partnerships among key businesses and innovators have the potential to drive economic development. That is the mission of the new Stardust Finger Lakes Initiative, an effort designed to foster collaboration in targeting the Finger Lakes as a region to conduct, start and expand business. Because of my decades of representing the Finger Lakes as a New York Senator, I was selected to lead this initiative, and I believe extensive collaboration with existing organizations that have the potential to assist in job development efforts will benefit the entire region. The aim is to promote our region’s significant assets. We can do that better through partnerships with Finger Lakes industrial development agencies, chambers of commerce, workforce development boards, and others who have a role in building the region’s economy.

The future of farming has never looked so promising. With new innovations, partnerships and targeted promotion, I believe our opportunities to strengthen economic development through agribusiness also look better than ever.

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