Empire State Development and Cornell University’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement have announced the inaugural 18 finalists for Grow-NY, a food innovation and agriculture technology business challenge focused on enhancing the emerging food, beverage and agriculture innovation cluster in Central New York, the Finger Lakes, and the Southern Tier.
"The Grow-NY competition has attracted a group of diverse, innovative entrepreneurs who are ready to focus on finding new ways to further transform New York State's world-renowned food and agricultural industry," Governor Cuomo said. "Through efforts like Grow-NY we are continuing to bolster these regional economies and foster statewide growth in this critical industry."
In all, 199 applicants hailed from North America, Europe, Central America, Africa, the Middle East and New Zealand, as well as hundreds of inquiries from food and agriculture startups. In the U.S., 23 states were represented, including 112 entries from New York. Females comprised 32 percent of applicants, and among those that indicated an ethnicity, 46 percent were non-white.
Today’s finalists represent the top 10 percent of those submissions as determined by a panel of 30 independent judges comprising the spectrum of food, beverage and agriculture businesses and academics. Grow-NY will award a total of $3 million in prize money to seven winners. This includes a $1 million top prize, two $500,000 prizes and four $250,000 prizes.
“It has been vital to us from the beginning that we cast a wide net to find the best and most diverse pool of applicants possible,” said Tom Schryver, director of Cornell University’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement. “We were gratified to see substantial geographic, gender, and ethnic diversity in the applicant pool. Today’s finalists should be very proud to have been selected from this highly competitive field, and we’re excited about their potential and the impact they will have on our region.”
The 18 finalists, in alphabetical order, include:
- AgVoice, Norcross, Ga. — Enables food and ag workers to use management tools on-the-go
- Capro-X, Ithaca, N.Y. — Upcycles dairy waste into valuable biofuels and bioplastics
- Combplex, Ithaca, N.Y. — Eliminates pests that threaten the health of honeybee hives
- Dropcopter, Syracuse, N.Y. — Leverages drones to pollinate crops and increase crop yield
- Halomine, Ithaca, N.Y. — Creates antimicrobial solutions to ensure food safety
- Independent Barley & Malt, Litchfield, Mich. — Growing new supply chains to provide world-class malt for the craft food and beverage market
- Livestock Water Recycling, Alberta, Canada — Modernizes manure management to improve yield and sustainability.
- Nuravine, New York, N.Y. — Maximizes indoor and greenhouse crop yield via water nutrient solutions
- Paragon Pure, Princeton, N.J. — Creates flavors, colors and nutrients protected within whole grain rice flour
- Perfect Granola, Victor, N.Y. — Crafts locally-sourced granola for NY schools while giving back
- Radical Plastics, Beverly, Mass. —Developed a patented catalyst technology that renders conventional plastics biodegradable
- RealEats America, Geneva, N.Y. — Delivers fresh, healthy meals, while minimizing food waste
- Re-Nuble, Rochester, N.Y. — Transforms food waste into organic nutrients as a sustainable alternative to mineral salts
- Simply Good Jars, Philadelphia, Pa. — Expands access to fresh and healthy foods via high-tech vending machines
- Slate Chocolate Milk, Boston, Mass. — Crafts better chocolate milk in cans, for adults
- Tiliter, Munich, Germany — Identifies products at supermarket checkouts with AI—no bar code needed
- Varcode USA, Naperville, Ill. —Monitors temperature changes of products using high-tech barcodes
- Whole Healthy Food (Healthy Baby), Ithaca, N.Y. — Develops new food ingredients with therapeutic benefits
The finalists will pitch their ideas and business plans at the Grow-NY Food and Ag Summit on Nov. 12 and 13 at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center. Tickets, sponsor, exhibition and volunteer information are all now available at https://growny.splashthat.com.
All finalists will receive:
- Dedicated mentorship from a hand-selected business advisor;
- Additional pitch training to hone their live pitches for the judges;
- An expenses-paid, three-day business development trip to the Grow-NY region for up to two finalists per team; and
- Networking introductions, business tours with potential partners, and valuable appointments for finalist team representatives.
“The finalists will pitch their business plans to a live audience and panel of judges at the Grow-NY Food and Ag Summit and the winners will be announced as the grand finale at the event,” Schryver added. “Each winning company will be bolstered, not only by the prize funds, but the tremendous array of resources only Upstate New York can offer.”
Judges will base award decisions on the following five criteria:
- Viability of Commercialization and Business Model – the potential for the entrant to generate revenue and maintain a cost structure that allows for a competitive and sustainable business, demonstrate technological readiness, or innovate to fulfill its value proposition;
- Customer Value – the degree to which the entrant is providing something for which customers are willing to pay, and addressing a substantial market;
- Food and Agriculture Innovation – the extent to which the entrant is pushing what’s considered state-of-the-art in the food and agriculture industries, and contributing to Upstate NY’s status as a global leader in innovation in these markets;
- Regional Job Creation – the potential for creating high-quality jobs in the Grow-NY footprint; and
- Team – the quality and completeness of the team and its readiness to deliver.
Empire State Development is providing funding for the Grow-NY competition through its Upstate Revitalization Initiative and Cornell University’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement is administering the competition. The winner will be required to make a positive economic impact in the Grow-NY region which features counties within Central NY, the Finger Lakes and the Southern Tier of New York State where there are vibrant farmlands as well as several major urban centers, including Rochester, Syracuse, Ithaca, Geneva and Binghamton. The winning business will help contribute to job growth, connect with local industry partners and contribute to a thriving economy.
To learn more about the finalists, mentors and judges, and to see full schedule of Grow-NY events, please visit grow-ny.com.