WGVA 106.3FM 1240AMMix 98.5101.7 The WallWFLR Finger Lakes Country Classic Hits 99.3The Lake 100.1/104.5 WAUB 96.3FM 1590AM

Cornell AgriTech Lands New National $70-Million Grape Improvement Center in Geneva


America’s new, state-of-the-art National Grape Improvement Center will be built in the Finger Lakes.

Thanks to a massive $68.9 million federal investment secured by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Cornell, and USDA broke ground Wednesday morning to construct  America’s new, state-of-the-art National Grape Improvement Center on the Cornell AgriTech Campus in Geneva.

Photos by Greg Cotterill, Finger Lakes Daily News.



“Today everyone in the Finger Lakes can raise a glass and cheer as we break ground on America’s new National Grape Improvement Center. Geneva and the Finger Lakes will now be the beating heart of research and innovation for the future of America’s wine and grape industry,” said Senator Schumer. “From the wines made here on Seneca Lake to concords grown for juice & jelly, this region has time and time again proven itself as the leader in innovation when it comes to America’s grape culture. This massive 70,000-square-foot lab will help cement the Finger Lakes legacy within the global wine industry and marks the start of a new chapter for something greater. In 2018, I promised to push for this center and secured the $70 million federal investment to make today possible. Now with shovels hitting the ground, we can finally pop the cork to say the future of America’s wine will flow through the Finger Lakes.”

Schumer explained the new National Grape Improvement Center will serve as a world-class research facility aimed at supporting the growth and resilience of New York and America’s viticulture. The massive over 70,000 square foot facility will house and significantly enhance the USDA’s Grape Genetics Research Unit, which for years was limited by its small leased, space from Cornell, and USDA’s Plant Genetic Resources Unit which will improve the cultivation of other vital New York crops like apples and tart cherries and new crops like hemp. In addition, four Cornell grapevine research projects will move into the research facility. These facilities will lead the nation in critical research to combat threats such as invasive species, pests, emerging pathogens, and climate change impacts, including increased drought, salinity, and cold. The center will be the epicenter for new insights into the grape industry and help growers in the Finger Lakes and across America make superior products for wine and juice.

The National Association of American Wineries 2022 National Economic Impact Study of the Wine Industry revealed that the New York wine industry has created 92,731 jobs, generating $5.64 billion in annual wages, and contributing nearly $15 billion in direct economic impact to New York State.

The massive research lab, office building, greenhouse, and other facilities, will feature cutting-edge technologies and solutions. The new center will strengthen the grape research community by enhancing opportunities for scientists to collaborate across disciplines and organizations. The building’s massive design includes large open spaces specifically for advanced grape robotics studies, facilitating the use of remote sensing, robotics, and artificial intelligence systems to help growers detect and manage grape diseases. By harnessing ARS’s imaging capabilities and genetic resources, the center will also support research into climate change adaptability and the development of improved grape varieties.  The center’s researchers will improve cultivation, quality and yield for grape producers nationwide. By addressing climate-related challenges — including water availability, pest infestations, and pathogen threats — researchers will help ensure that grape production remains viable even in changing conditions. Plus, the Center’s geneticists and breeders can innovate new grape cultivars that thrive in diverse climates and provide growers with alternatives to the classic European grape varieties.

Schumer says a nearly $70 million cutting-edge facility will help solidify the Finger Lakes as the beating heart of America’s wine & grape industry, with local scientists leading the way for USDA to tackle some of the industry’s most prevalent problems from grape genetics, to crop science, to pest management, and more.

Schumer said the Grape Genetics Research Unit, co-located on the Cornell AgriTech campus, is one of the ARS’ most productive, collaborative, and innovative research programs, but for decades it has been constrained by space. The new lab will foster increased collaboration between federal scientists and Cornell faculty, researchers, and extension associates. This has helped spur exponential growth in the grape and wine industry with a state-of-the-art facility ready to meet the needs of the top-notch scientists and industry leaders from across the U.S. coming to New York to make critical strides and discoveries in viticulture.

In addition, Senator Schumer touted that on the same Cornell AgriTech campus, right next to the new Grape Institute, he secured a nearly $1.5 million Federal Grant that greenlit the construction of “Tech Farm 2.” This brand-new building will double the size of the current Tech Farm Food Business which originally opened on the campus in 2005. This facility will be worked on in tandem with the new Grape Institute, which will create bushels of new jobs. With more than 45 startup companies launched thanks to the original Tech Farm incubator, we know this model works. Companies like Assured Edge Solutions, who have called the Tech Farm their home has outgrown the space and are ready to move into Tech Farm 2 and add up to 20 new jobs. Now, there is a waiting list of companies anxious to move into the new Tech Farm incubator, so the number of new jobs will only increase.

Jim Trezise, President, WineAmerica said, “Quality starts in the vineyard, and research drives quality. Senator Schumer’s tireless support of the grape and wine industry, most recently with funding for this new facility housing grape genetics research, reflects his awareness that grapes and wine are not just delicious farm products, but economic engines which generated $276 billion for the American economy in 2022. Cheers!”

Scott Osborn, President and Co-Owner Fox Run Vineyards said, “Senator Schumer’s support for Cornell has resulted in the development of Traminette and other grape varieties that are more disease tolerant, more winter hardy, and ripen earlier, which for those of us here in the Finger lakes and other cool climate regions in the United States has helped us expand our businesses. This new grape genetics facility will accelerate that progress.

Sam Filler, Executive Director of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation said, “The increasing unpredictable variability in weather patterns, from droughts and fire events in the West to late spring frost and freeze events in the East, makes grape growing in the United States more challenging and riskier. Even traditional European grape regions with similar climate impacts have started cultivating more extreme weather-tolerant grape varieties. Cornell University has been at the forefront of grape breeding in the United States for decades. Senator Schumer’s efforts to secure the Grape Innovation Lab at Cornell University will ensure that New York will remain a leader in developing solutions for the national grape industry to adapt to the impacts of climate change.”

Have all the Finger Lakes news from Finger Lakes News Radio delivered to your email every morning for FREE!  Sign up by clicking here.


Get the top stories on your radio 24/7 on Finger Lakes News Radio 96.3 and 1590, WAUB and 106.3 and 1240, WGVA, and on Finger Lakes Country, 96.1/96.9/101.9/1570 WFLR.