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Expansion eyed at Technology Farm in Geneva

Rochester Business Journal
October 29, 2010

The first building at the Cornell Agriculture & Food Technology Park is nearly full, and the organization's leader is looking for further development at the site.

The park, also called the Technology Farm, is home to 10 businesses employing nearly 60 people. Firms there focus on agribusiness and range from the producer of an all-natural cherry drink to a provider of deer deterrent systems.

The park was dedicated in November 2005, and the first tenants moved in the next spring. The first phase included the $10 million, 20,000-square-foot building for multiple tenants.

Executive Director Susan Noble said another building, which would include additional incubator space, is being discussed.

"We are continuing to grow," she said.

The park is a 72-acre site in Geneva, Ontario County, that fosters collaboration among Cornell University faculty members and the state Agricultural Experiment Station, located next door. Tenants can link to research in numerous competencies related to food, agriculture and bioscience.

Tenants also have access to food production space, a lab and office space, along with a shared warehouse.

In addition, a retail shop opened recently to sell items including products made by the tenants, such as Stony Brook Wholehearted Foods' squash seed oil and Cheribundi's tart cherry juice.

The park is dependent on funding from a variety of sources, including the federal and state governments and the Agricultural Experiment Station, which is run by Cornell. Ontario County and the city of Geneva provide services, incentives and some cash.

The site is marketed heavily on the Web, and referrals come from the state's Food Venture Center, located next door at the station. Noble receives calls weekly from companies, especially those interested in pilot production.

The park is also a local educational tool and receives visitors from around the world, including those from higher education institutions.

Noble was named executive director roughly one year ago, becoming the third person to head the operation. She had worked at the park as administrative assistant and chief financial officer since shortly after it opened. Noble had previously worked for entrepreneur and philanthropist Pleasant Rowland at the Aurora Foundation in a variety of capacities, including the management of one of her enterprises.

A goal is to add more space for new agricultural and food technology businesses to get their start, Noble said.

She noted that one company, Cole & Parks Bakery, Cafe & Coffee Co., graduated out of the incubator building in December and has since partnered with Rich Foods Co., a $2.8 billion food business in Buffalo, to sell its frozen cookie nuggets.

The Technology Farm has been pegged as a major force for economic development in the county and the Rochester-Finger Lakes region, by creating businesses and jobs from commercialized technologies in agriculture, food and bioscience industries.

Other organizations also have expressed interest in moving to the site. The U.S. Agricultural Research Service has said it plans to build a 59,000-square-foot national Center for Grape Genetics Research, which would employ 30 workers. Some $10 million has been secured for the building, and the design work and permitting has been done. More funding is needed for the $32 million project, which ag tech leaders are hoping will get some federal earmarks.

Besides the proximity to the Cornell facility, another advantage of the site is becoming part of what Noble calls an entrepreneurial community, where businesses help each other grow.

"This is a strong community of entrepreneurs," she said.

The facility also provides access to office equipment and consultants who can help with tasks such as grant writing.

Terrenew LLC is one tenant. The firm was created in 2005 to develop low-cost, environmentally friendly products and methods for cleaning up environmental contaminants using agricultural waste, mostly dairy farm manure.

The company recently received a $198,000 National Science Foundation grant to study bioremediation effects in the Gulf of Mexico since the oil spill this year. Additional products are being developed for commercial sale, including erosion control pads that can be hung and used to grow grass, fruits and vegetables, company leaders said.

Thomas Bourne, Terrenew president and CEO, said the Technology Farm was a good fit for the startup because founding members of the company are scientists who work at the experiment station and its nearby production facility.

Bourne said another advantage is networking with other tenants in similar industries.

"There are other entrepreneurs here in the same stages of business development," Bourne said. "In a way, we're all in the same boat."

Technology Farm tenants

Ten tenants with a total of nearly 60 employees occupy the first building at the Cornell Agriculture and Food Technology Park.

  • Advanced Biological Marketing (agrirelated marketing)
  • CherryPharm Inc., which does business as Cheribundi (fruit juice)
  • CMCreative Design (design services)
  • Deer Tech (deer-deterrent systems)
  • New York State Agri-Development Corp. (ag business development)
  • Seneca BioEnergy LLC (biodiesel production)
  • Stony Brook Wholehearted Foods (all-natural cookies and baked goods)
  • Terrenew LLC (environmental remediation products)
  • Top Quality Hay Processors LLC (oven-dried hay)
  • ZedX Inc. (information technology)

10/29/10 (c) 2010 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail service@rbj.net.


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