April 11, 2011

CU dairy expertise attracts Colombian company to upstate

Cornell's dairy expertise has helped convince a Colombian dairy company to locate its first North American plant in western New York.

The decision to site an Alpina yogurt manufacturing facility at the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park in Batavia is expected to lead to more than $15 million in investment and at least 50 jobs. It was hailed by New York's governor as validation of the strength of New York's $9 billion dairy industry, which is the largest segment of the state's agricultural sector.

Established in 1945, Alpina runs nine industrial facilities across Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador, and has a commercial presence in more than 12 countries.

One of the major factors for choosing the Batavia site "was the research and development capabilities and the experience in agriculture production that Cornell University has demonstrated," said Steve Hyde, president and CEO of Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC). "Cornell University, and specifically Dean [Kathryn] Boor and the faculty of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences have been valuable partners working alongside GCEDC and its other partners to attract Alpina to western New York," he added.

Alpina will have access to the pilot plant on Cornell's Ithaca campus and the Food Venture Center in Geneva to test its products and ensure its recipes are ready for large-scale production. In addition to technical support, Cornell dairy experts will provide training to Alpina staff and guidance in interpreting and following U.S. food processing and safety regulations.

"Our faculty, staff and students have considerable depth in milk production and dairy processing expertise and aim to build lasting partnerships with this innovative company," said Kathryn Boor, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of Agriculture and Life Sciences. "It's a wonderful example of how we work with industry to deliver the college's land-grant mission of applying knowledge for a public purpose."

"Our dairy extension team is already immersed in the western New York dairy processing community, so this new collaboration will be a natural extension of our current efforts," added Jason Huck, Cornell dairy plant manager.

CALS food scientists assist dairy businesses with product development, quality assurance, shelf-life extension and food safety, while animal scientists and extension specialists in the PRO-DAIRY program work on herd health and nutrition, cropping strategies and on-site disease monitoring, he said. Economists from the college also study supply networks, product development, distribution and marketing, and FarmNet counselors help dairy farmers develop and implement business plans.

"The dairy industry is a major player in the vitality of rural New York, and CALS is proud to be an active partner in bolstering economic development in western New York," Boor said.

Stacey Shackford is a staff writer at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.