For decades, New York City food entrepreneurs have turned to the Cornell Food Venture Center (CFVC) in Geneva, New York, for help bringing their ideas to market. Now CFVC is extending its services to Brooklyn to make collaborations with Cornell food scientists even easier.
Ann Vegdahl joined CFVC this summer at a new satellite office in Brooklyn. Her expertise is in quantitative microbial risk assessment and predictive microbiology, where she works directly with companies and entrepreneurs who create products to be sold and enjoyed around the world.
We spoke to her about her role and what she sees ahead for New York food entrepreneurs.
What will you be doing day to day in your new role in Brooklyn?
Every day is different at the Cornell Food Venture Center @NYC. I consult with aspiring food entrepreneurs and established companies who are trying to bring some new and exciting product to market. They often need someone to help guide and provide expertise, and this what I do on a daily basis. I also collaborate with New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets food inspectors, with whom I share an office. I also develop educational workshops, visit local commercial kitchens and run the social media platforms.
The diversity of food products is astonishing. There is an intense food culture in the area full of creative people coming up with fresh concepts. The very first client I met with creates healthy snacks with “Insect’s flour.” A few weeks later, I helped a client create a West -African beverage. I recently met someone making Singaporean- inspired pepper sauce. There is so much enthusiasm here in New York City. Being here allows us to serve them more efficiently.
What’s the entrepreneurial community like among food producers in New York City?
New York City is an exciting, vibrant, energetic place, and food brings everyone together. Many are striving to create new, healthy, sustainable, nutrition-rich foods. There are hundreds of small food entrepreneurs operating in their homes, commercial kitchens and restaurants. Cornell Food Venture Center gets to be part of this exciting movement and support many of the food processors by providing assistance to enhance food safety and satisfy regulatory compliances through trainings and workshops.
What are you passionate about in this position?
I am passionate about food and, honestly, who isn’t? This is why I chose to focus on food microbiology for my dissertation. Now I apply my training in daily interactions while further increasing my knowledge. The challenge of problem-solving, microbial risk assessment and process validation excites me. I am also passionate about helping people.
How will your work benefit consumers in New York and internationally?
The Cornell Food Venture Center helps ensure New York food entrepreneurs produce microbiologically safe products. Those foods get displayed in local specialty foods stores or big supermarkets. Others are sold online, across the country and around the world.
How will you know you’re successful?
When I can both help food entrepreneurs produce safe products and secure funds to keep the Cornell FVC strong.
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