Stony Brook University officially opened the doors to its new Agriculture Consumer Science Center (ACSC) at the Stony Brook University Incubator at Calverton during a commemorative event held on October 16. Stony Brook President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., MD, New York State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle and other officials instrumental in bringing this new facility to fruition were joined by local entrepreneurs and members of the East End business and agriculture communities for the commemorative ceremony.
The ACSC, an 8,300-square-foot annex to the Calverton Incubator, will provide regional food and wine producers and local entrepreneurs access to shared processing areas. It also facilitates contact with collaborating researchers, scientists and professionals from Stony Brook University, Brookhaven National Laboratory and the NYS Small Business Development Center, all of which can guide and advise from a business concept all the way to commercialization.
In March 2010 Stony Brook announced that through the efforts of Senator LaValle, the University was selected to receive a $3.5 million grant from the New York State Economic Development Assistance Program for the construction of the ACSC with a focus on the development of aquaculture, agriculture and environmental technologies. Funding for the project was administered by the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York. In his remarks Dr. Stanley expressed gratitude to Senator LaValle for his efforts in securing the $3.5 million for construction, and to the Town of Riverhead for donating the 50 acres of land on which the ACSC is built.
“Economic development is a key component of the Stony Brook University mission and critical to the growth and success of Long Island’s economy,” said President Stanley. “Now that the Center is officially open for business, the University has taken the first steps to bridge the gap between the East End and the market shelf.”
The new facility houses fully functional resources for agricultural producers and small-scale food processors in both hot process and dry process functions. Dry storage, cold storage and freezer storage units are available on site, as well as a product development area with a viewing section for demonstration purposes. Producers will also be afforded laboratory space with ductless fume hoods and a microbiology lab for research and development. A loading dock will serve both the new addition and the existing building. Ten users of the ACSC have been approved to date.
“The ACSC will help local farmers and businesses contribute to local job creation and help to bring the next great product to market, all right here in Riverhead,” said Senator LaValle.
Janet Jensen, a soon-to-be ACSC tenant and founder of N.O.A. Bars, a start-up company that produces all-natural snack bars, expressed her appreciation for the assistance of the Agriculture Consumer Science Center. “This brand new facility has beautiful state-of-the-art equipment, as well as business planning and all the guidance a person will need to get the best possible start to having a successful business,” Jensen said. “I am certain that many others will also benefit from the opportunities presented by this fine facility.”
Another future tenant, Rebecca Castellano, founder of Rachel Lu, a start-up that seeks to produce high-quality gluten-free food agreed, “Anyone in the food business understands that it works on a volume basis,” she said. “Profit margins are tight, so it’s imperative that at some point you work to deliver high volume. The Agriculture Consumer Science Center gives us everything we need to grow our company – storage, shipping and loading docks, gluten-free cooking areas, and a complete manufacturing infrastructure, including education and operational support.”
“The impressive response of the agricultural community, even before the doors are open, proves this new facility is answering a deeply felt need,” said Yacov Shamash, vice president for economic development and dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “We’re delighted to help sustain an industry that has been a Long Island mainstay for more than 350 years in the new world of the 21st century.”
Monique Gablenz, director of the Incubator at Calverton, noted that training and community education services are also available for tenants. One such organization providing resources is J. Kings Food Distributors, which has developed a program designed to help local independent food businesses get the training needed to raise awareness and expand their knowledge base on issues such as food product development, marketing, pricing and distribution related issues.