ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Empire Medicinals, a mushroom innovation company specializing in gourmet varieties and groundbreaking additive ingredients, has become the first business to take lab space at the NYS Center for Excellence in Food and Agriculture (COE) at Cornell AgriTech.
“The Center of Excellence is pleased to work with Empire Medicinals in its product research and development,” said COE Director Catharine Young. “The young company has already developed unique, very tasty, and healthy food products and was an award winner in the 2020 Grow-NY competition. Working with the world-class food scientists at Cornell AgriTech will help the company take its products to the next level.”
The Rochester, New York-based food company, is becoming known as a leader in the mushroom industry. Under its culinary mushroom brand Leep Foods, the company grows regenerative organic specialty mushrooms, including Blue Oyster, Lion’s Mane, and Shiitake, and distributes them through leading grocers across the US Northeast..
Empire Medicinals is now pursuing the commercial-scale production of mushroom mycelium, the filamentous root-like structures that precede the formation of a mushroom, as an abundant source of nutritious compounds to create dynamic new food products, healthy food additives, and in-demand dietary food supplements and nutraceuticals. The expanded laboratory space at the COE will allow Empire Medicinals to test a variety of processes in the cultivation of the beneficial compounds of mycelia, a product achieving growing attention as a nutritious food additive and its potential therapeutic properties as a food supplement. Both are multi-billion dollar industries.
The most unique facet of the Empire Medicinals’ research is not solely growing and harvesting mycelia, but its research seeks to improve the cultivation process. The study will partner with New York’s dairy industry to improve the mycelium cultivation process. Empire Medicinals will utilize by-products from milk, yogurt, and other dairy food processing. This collaboration will have additional environmental benefits, reduce farmers’ and food manufacturers’ carbon footprints and enhance the sustainability of agricultural processes by reducing greenhouse gasses.
“As we explored fresh mushroom growing processes to develop our gourmet products, we asked ourselves if we could grow mushroom mycelia using the lactose sugars abundantly present in acid whey, the by-product of Greek yogurt manufacturing,” said Chris Carter, Empire Medicinals’ Executive Vice President and Board Member. “That led us to interesting and expansive research in the cultivation of mycelia submerged in liquid.”
With the new laboratory at the COE, Empire Medicinals will have access to space, technology, and the expertise necessary for that expansive research. “It will be companies like Empire Medicinals,” Young added, “that help us increase the size and scope of the food and agriculture economy in New York, which is really the heart of our mission at the Center for Excellence”.