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Stony Brook to build agricultural research center

visitor Glenn Sherman tastes the Bedell Cellars Reserve

visitor Glenn Sherman tastes the Bedell Cellars Reserve as his wife Diane Sherman awaits his review. The contemporary winery is located in Cutchogue. (September 11, 2010) Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

Stony Brook University's plan to build an Agricultural Consumer Science Center at its Calverton business incubator means Long Island farmers and wine makers will be able to research and develop products without leaving Long Island.

"This is something our industry has been screaming for," Long Island Farm Bureau President Frank Beyrodt said at Tuesday's unveiling of the plans. "Farming is an ancient art, but it can be so much better" with new technology.

The center will provide technical and practical support for local wine and farm industries, and bring East End agricultural industries together with university researchers. Bob Kern, a business consultant and member of Riverhead Town's Agriculture Committee, said the center's large, fully equipped commercial kitchens and a "metabolic kitchen" for research purposes, and access to researchers and scientists, could help the wine industry develop new products.

"You can make shampoo out of grapes," Kern said, as well as skin creams.

Currently, if a business wants to develop a new product such as sauce or tomato juice and needs to determine how long the product would last in a jar, the nearest facility is a food science center in upstate Geneva, Kern said. Having a facility on the East End would be a boon to local industries and a "practical application bridge between education and business," he said.

A $3.5 million state economic development assistance grant secured by state Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) will fund building the 8,500-square-foot center. Construction on the facility designed by Ehasz Giacolone Architects could begin by late winter and take 12 to 14 months to complete, according to Monique Gablenz, director of the Calverton Business Incubator.

Janine Nebons, vice president of the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce, called the center a potential "milestone for economic development in Riverhead."

Several university officials, including Stony Brook president Samuel Stanley Jr., and Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter attended the news conference about the center. Riverhead donated 50 acres to the university for the Calverton incubator, which opened in 2006 and now houses eight businesses, including a biomedical firm and an electronics company developing energy efficient projects. The facility also includes laboratories with both fresh and salt-water access, and an office of the Small Business Development Center at Stony Brook.

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