Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) announced last Wednesday that the state is awarding $6.9 million to the New York State Food Venture Center, a Cornell-run program based in Geneva, New York.
The nearly $7 million fund aims to help FVC “experiment on new techniques for wineries and beer labs,” Cuomo said at the third annual Beer, Wine, Spirits and Cider Summit held in Albany, New York, where he announced the grant. He added that the state will set aside an additional $10 million to promote the state’s craft-beverage industry and to fund start-up wineries and breweries through $50,000 interest-free loans.
Founded in 1988, FVC is a food science extension and research program under the College of Agriculture and Life Science’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, according to Prof. Olga Padilla-Zakour M.S. ’88 Ph.D. ’91, who serves as the director of FVC and chair of the Department of Food Science.
In 2000, the center received five years of federal funding and worked together with the Center for Food Science at the University of Vermont to cover the Northeast, under the title Northeast Center for Food Entrepreneurship, according to Padilla-Zakour. The NECFE strives “to provide comprehensive assistance to beginning and established food entrepreneurs, thus promoting sustainable economic development of rural communities,” according to its website.
During its 15 years of operation, the Northeast Center for Food Entrepreneurship has served 2,700 entrepreneurs in their efforts to commercialize 10,380 food products, according to a 2014 report on the NECFE.
According to Padilla-Zakour, FVC currently receives funding from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and fees from a variety of services, including direct counseling and educational programs for food entrepreneurs in the Northeast. In the past, the center also received grants from federal and state institutions such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the NY Farm Viability Institute.
The center currently includes a pilot plant, laboratory, office space and training rooms, according to Padilla-Zakour. The $6.9 million, in combination with funding from State University Construction Fund, will be used to fully renovate the FVC.
“Right now, classes are regularly ‘sold out’ and so the additional funds just announced will help us extend knowledge about economic development to the fast growing craft beverage sector and entrepreneurial food ventures,” Padilla-Zakour said.