Grape expectations near Fairport

October 9, 2012 by  

Not far from Fairport, New York, a new regional specialty item could soon be in production thanks to Seneca BioEnergy. The company recently secured support from the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council in its bid for state funding to transform grape harvest waste into kitchen treasure. For area restaurants that feature dishes prepared with local foods, it is a welcome development.

Though originally started to convert soybeans, corn, and grape seeds into biodiesel fuel, Seneca BioEnergy is enthusiastic about adding another product to its line — grape seed oil.

The processing of any fruit for juice leaves behind a mash-like material referred to as pomace. At the height of the fall production season, this means tons of raw pomace are delivered daily to the company’s storage facility at the former Seneca Army Depot. Shipments arrive from around 20 wineries located across the Finger Lakes region.

Michael Coia, CEO of Seneca BioEnergy, believes there are a number of opportunities created through the reuse of agricultural discards for other products like fuel, animal feed, dairy cow bedding, and farm fertilizer. He said:

“We philosophically decided it was important from the company’s position to link together environmental sustainability, renewable energy and agricultural processing.”

Seneca BioEnergy is looking to leverage financing by using state dollars channeled through the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council. The funds are needed to assist with infrastructure and equipment necessary to support the grape seed oil venture.

The Council is enthusiastic about this type of “transformative” project but also promotes small business development, such as the entrepreneur looking to start a print company using the latest technology or a local telecommunications operation looking for assistance with planning.

For Seneca BioEnergy, this is yet another way to turn by-product into a cash product that also benefits local wineries and cooking connoisseurs.