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World-Class Research and Innovation at Finger Lakes-based Cornell AgriTech

Cornell AgriTech

Impressive updates in research, food and beverage innovation, plant breeding, and education for the AgriTech community – highlights on these topics can be found in the just-released edition of Cornell AgriTech’s 2019 annual report. These stories help showcase the many reasons the Finger Lakes region is fortunate to have Cornell AgriTech at its center.

“Without Cornell AgriTech here in Geneva, [Wegmans] wouldn’t be anywhere near as successful with a lot of our new products and our services,” says Bill Strassburg, Wegmans’ VP of Strategic Initiatives.

As New York State’s Land Grant University, Cornell conducts cutting-edge agricultural and food research at Cornell AgriTech. And the research doesn’t sit on the shelf. It’s part of their land grant mission to innovate and share information so farmers and food businesses can implement new and better practices in their businesses.

Cornell AgriTech has been championing agricultural advancements since 1880. In that time, 290+ fruit & vegetable varieties have been developed on-site in Geneva. Among their research facilities are a fully functioning food processing plant, production facilities for craft beverages, controlled environment agriculture facilities, 900 acres for plant breeding and crop trials, and a business accelerator for food, beverage, and agricultural businesses.

Research Pipeline to the Private Sector

Cornell creates a research pipeline to the private sector through strategic initiatives including its food accelerator, The Technology Farm, and a dynamic hub for innovation and collaboration, the Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture (COE). New York State ranks second highest in the nation for food processing. To keep this position, researchers and businesses work hand-in-hand to bring food processing solutions to market.

Assured Edge Solutions (AES), a company located in The Technology Farm, produces fruit and vegetable powders that are available in 10 national grocery chains including Wegmans. They’re one of the more than 75 small New York-based companies thriving thanks to support from the COE.

“It’s an exciting time in the food, beverage and agriculture industries; there’s an incredible amount of innovation, and much of it is consumer-driven,” remarks COE Executive Director, Cathy Young.

Allison Usavage/Cornell University. Photo Credit: Jan Regan

Bill Strassburg, VP of Strategic Initiatives at Wegmans knows that the support that Cornell AgriTech brings to the food and agriculture industry “allows us to grow the economy because most of the new jobs that are made in the region are based upon innovators and entrepreneurs.”

The Center of Excellence leveraged its banner year in 2019 supporting companies across New York state with important services and expertise that led to:

  • 75+ companies engaging with the COE to launch and grow their businesses
  • $25M raised by companies working with the COE to grow their businesses
  • 97 new jobs were created as a result of efforts from the COE

Innovations that Shape Agriculture

The institution has the oldest apple breeding program in the U.S. led today by Dr. Susan Brown. The program supports New York’s robust apple industry, valued at $262 million annually. Dr. Brown created two premium managed apple varieties, SnapDragon and RubyFrost, and has just announced the release of three new varieties: Firecracker, Pink Luster and Cordera. “There are tens to a hundred that could be potential varieties in the future,” Brown adds.

The innovation doesn’t just stop in the apple orchard. Developing managed apple varieties like SnapDragon and RubyFrost is a way for farmers to invest in premium brands by investing in their own growers cooperative. The three new apple varieties offer another option. The new varieties are available to growers big and small across the U.S. without having to invest in the cooperative. Dr. Brown’s goal with the new apples is to support the “underdog” producers.

As the world continues to change, the research at Cornell AgriTech is becoming more and more vital to farmers and consumers. “The reason we need this continuing research is that the climate is changing and problems change,” remarks NY farmer Laura Pederson of Pederson Farms. “We see different insects showing up as well as diseases that we didn’t use to see. It makes sense to tap into the knowledge that’s here [at Cornell AgriTech] and take advantage of it.”

Allison Usavage/Cornell University. Photo Credit: Jan Regan

By every measure, the scientists at Cornell AgriTech have been a major ingredient in the success of the wine and craft beverage industry in New York State. The research and technical assistance provided by Cornell AgriTech over the past three decades has enabled the tremendous growth of over 500 wineries, 500 craft breweries and over 250 other craft beverage centers across every corner of New York State. This is also a major reason why the U.S. Department of Agriculture is locating the National Grape Genetics Center on the Cornell AgriTech campus in Geneva.

Producers and processors across New York state are reaping the benefits of putting Cornell AgriTech’s scientific expertise into practice. From field to store shelf, Geneva, NY-based Cornell AgriTech plays a vital role in New York’s food and agricultural economy. Learn more at

Up next: Cornell AgriTech’s purpose-driven hemp research. In 2017, there were 24 hemp growers in NYS. Today there are over 700. Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has assembled an interdisciplinary team of researchers and extension specialists to study how New York state can move forward in developing its hemp industry.

Maureen Ballatori is a contributor to the LOCATE Finger Lakes Business Journal. She owns 29 Design Studio, a Finger Lakes-based branding and marketing agency that specializes in food and agriculture. She is also a partner in Metro Collective, a coworking venture with six locations throughout the Greater Rochester and Finger Lakes regions.

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