SUNY Cobleskill’s Institute for Rural Vitality and the Center for Agricultural Development & Entrepreneurship (CADE) announce the launch of their USDA Agriculture Innovation Center. The project builds upon their existing collaboration on the Mohawk Valley Farm & Food Business Incubator, a New York State recognized business incubator. This is one of just three centers funded in 2020 by the USDA Agriculture Innovation Center program across the United States.
Funded by a recently awarded USDA grant, the Agriculture Innovation Center will deliver comprehensive business development services and support to a cohort of ten of the most promising businesses in our region through a new Farm and Food Business Accelerator program. Participants in the Accelerator cohort will be selected based on their potential for growth and impact on the local farm and food sector.
The grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, totaling $741,271, supports efforts to better equip growers and producers in the Mohawk Valley in addressing the farming industry’s diversification and profitability challenges. With the addition of funds from other sources, the program represents a total investment of $1,121,002. The project will fund resources specifically earmarked for cohort members, as well as dedicated staff at SUNY Cobleskill and CADE to address identified needs of farm and food entrepreneurs in the Mohawk Valley/Central NY/Southern Tier region.
The support offered to program participants will include value-added product and process development, market and value chain development, facilitation of public and private investment, and access to legal advice. Participants will have access and support in using existing and newly available incubator facilities operated by the Institute for Rural Vitality on the SUNY Cobleskill campus, including:
- Dairy Processing Center, for development and production of value-added dairy products
- USDA-inspected meat processing facility
- Commercial kitchens
- Schoharie Fresh online farmer’s market
- Carriage House Café & General Store for conducting retail pilots and market research
- Packaging equipment
Participants will receive product, process, and business development support from SUNY Cobleskill faculty and staff, including food science and food specialists, as well as dedicated staff expertise and resources from CADE focused on training, workshops, and one-on-one business planning and marketing advice.
“The Agriculture Innovation Center is all about moving our region’s farm and food industries forward and building networks that allow growers and producers to interact with one another, learn from one another, and ultimately encourage progress and expansion within each entrepreneur’s particular area of agriculture,” said Dr. Scott Ferguson, executive director of the Institute for Rural Vitality at SUNY Cobleskill. “We appreciate the USDA’s recognition and support for the vital services our two organizations can provide to the region’s agricultural community.”
“We are particularly excited to offer our support services to more established businesses – including from our Food Science faculty, use of our on-campus commercial kitchen and creamery facilities for launching new products, our local food retail outlet for piloting new products, and more,” Ferguson continued.
“Our farmers and food producers are society’s bedrock, and an investment in support structures like the Agriculture Innovation Center is an investment in the health of our communities on a larger scale.
This program, with the support of the USDA, allows us to respond to the challenges the industry is facing today and offer the most relevant resources to ensure a healthy, and sustainable, future for our region,” said Phoebe Schreiner, executive director of CADE.
“By the time this cohort ‘graduates’ from the Accelerator program, we will have helped them expand to new markets, get a branding facelift, launch new products, move into value-added production, obtain grants or loans or investment, identify new distribution channels, and other services to help their businesses grow. We are so proud to partner with SUNY Cobleskill on this program so we can invest these precious resources strategically in central New York – expanding our agribusinesses, growing our agricultural economy, and strengthening the local food system”, said Schreiner.
The program will begin with the selection of ten vetted and qualified farm and food businesses in the Mohawk Valley to participate. Entrepreneurs interested in participating in this program should visit The Institute for Rural Vitality or contact Seth Browe at 518-255-5032 for more information.
Selection of the entrepreneur cohort and allocation of resources will be overseen by an independent expert board convened specifically for this program and representing a broad cross-section of agriculture in New York State.
Since 2016, SUNY Cobleskill has partnered with CADE to deliver incubator services to farm and food entrepreneurs in the region as a NYS-designated Business Incubator (the Mohawk Valley Farm & Food Business Incubator, FFBI).