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By Jacob Pucci
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  • Center of Excellence in Food and Agriculture
  • Cornell AgriTech
  • Cornell Food Venture Center
  • Food

The Food Innovation Lab officially opened on July 25 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Cornell leadership and public officials.

A new research and test kitchen for food entrepreneurs has opened at Cornell AgriTech, further enriching a robust ecosystem designed to help grow New York’s food and agriculture industries. The Food Innovation Lab (FIL) is a collaboration between the New York State Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture (CoE) and the Cornell Food Venture Center (CFVC).

The test kitchen is a natural accompaniment to the CFVC Pilot Plant, a state-of-the-art 10,000-square-foot processing facility focused on product development and scaling up new food products.

What sets the FIL apart

Olga Padilla-Zakour, Ph.D. ’91, interim director of Cornell AgriTech and director of the CFVC, said having a facility like the FIL will help entrepreneurs fine tune their ideas, processes and formulations before they scale up to the Pilot Plant.

“Working closely with entrepreneurs at an early stage can really let us make a big impact,” Padilla-Zakour said. “Having the FIL, along with the Pilot Plant, allows entrepreneurs to really see what the possibilities are before they make the jump.”

The FIL is outfitted with a full suite of commercial appliances and equipment, including nearly $20,000 worth of countertop appliances donated by Waring Commercial. The new facility also features analytical equipment, such as benchtop scales, a digital refractometer, a convection incubator, microscopes, a centrifuge, and other tools that will let users test food products for pH, water activity, degrees Brix, and other food safety tests – a feature rarely available in regular commercial kitchens.

“We are indeed providing options that were not available before,” Padilla-Zakour said.

Bridging food and science

CFVC Pilot Plant Manager Roger Morse, who will also oversee the FIL, said the new test kitchen will help bridge the gap food entrepreneurs often face while growing from a home or restaurant kitchen into the CFVC Pilot Plant or another food manufacturing facility.

“This is a place where food entrepreneurs can begin to understand the scientific parameters around the food they make,” Morse said. “It’s a perfect example of food quality and food science coming together.”

Both the CFVC Pilot Plant and FIL are New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets-inspected facilities.

Growing New York's food economy

The FIL is the latest addition to a growing ecosystem at Cornell AgriTech that helps fuel growth and innovation in the food and agriculture systems in New York state and beyond. The FIL is located adjacent to the CFVC Pilot Plant inside the Food Research Laboratory at Cornell AgriTech, which is also home to the CoE, a business incubator and economic development center that connects New York food, beverage and agriculture businesses with world-class Cornell experts and other resources businesses and entrepreneurs need to succeed.

CoE Executive Director Cathy Young said the FIL will further strengthen the partnership between the CoE and CFVC and allow for a greater range of food entrepreneurs to come to Cornell AgriTech and grow their businesses.

“Supporting entrepreneurs is paramount to our goal of cultivating economic development, creating new jobs and helping grow the food, beverage and agriculture industries here in New York,” Young said. “This new facility will allow for even more food entrepreneurs to work with the CoE and cements Cornell AgriTech’s role as a leading hub for food innovation and growth.”

For more information about using the Food Innovation Lab, contact Roger Morse at rtm1 [at] cornell.edu (rtm1[at]cornell[dot]edu).

Jacob Pucci is the marketing and communications coordinator for the New York State Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture at Cornell AgriTech. 

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