Grow-NY Summit to feature food, ag innovations

Biodegradable plastics, drone-powered pollination and revolutionary indoor farming techniques are just a few of the innovations that will be on display at the Grow-NY Food and Ag Summit, Nov. 12-13 at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center.

The two-day event includes live pitches from food and agriculture startups competing for $3 million in prizes, a symposium, an exhibition of regional food and ag ecosystem leaders and an awards gala.

A partnership between Empire State Development and Cornell, the summit will bring together startups and established companies, entrepreneurs and investors; researchers and students, and farmers and food producers.

“The Grow-NY region includes central New York, the Finger Lakes and the Southern Tier, and boasts leading food and ag researchers and food scientists,” said Tom Schryver, director of Cornell’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement.

Cornell impacting New York State

“This region also has some of the best growing and farming conditions in the world for fruit, vegetable and dairy producers,” Schryver said, “and a vibrant value chain of manufacturers, packagers and distribution centers – only 200 miles from a one of the largest cities in the world with millions of hungry consumers.”

Attendees can watch the top 17 startups from the Grow-NY food and ag competition pitch their innovations live to a panel of judges. Each finalist will describe their innovation, outline their business plan and share how they will use the award money to make a positive economic impact on the Grow-NY region. Each pitch will be followed by a brief question-and-answer period led by the judges.

Awards – a top prize of $1 million, plus two $500,000 awards and four $250,000 awards – will be announced at the ceremony at the end of the summit.

Judges in the Grow-NY competition narrowed the field of 17 finalists down from an initial field of 199 startups from around the world. Four of the finalists are led by Cornell alumni or students, including:

  • Capro-X: CEO Juan Guzman ’19, Ph.D. ’18, was a Cornell Engineering Commercialization Fellow and has founded a startup to upcycle dairy waste into valuable biofuels and bioplastics.
  • Halomine: CEO Ted Eveleth ’90 and CTO Mingyu Qiao, a postdoctoral researcher, are members of the Praxis Center for Venture Development and have teamed up to create antimicrobial solutions that ensure food safety.
  • Whole Healthy Food: CEO Joel Li, Ph.D. ’15, is being mentored through the Grow-NY competition by fellow Cornellian Charlie Mulligan, MBA ’11, CEO and founder of GiveGab. Whole Healthy Foods is on a mission to develop new food ingredients with therapeutic benefits.
  • Combplex: Doctoral students Hailey Scofield, CEO, and Nathan Oakes, CTO, have launched a startup to eliminate pests that threaten the health of honeybee hives.

The Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture at Cornell AgriTech is hosting the symposium, a series of panels tackling some of the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the food and ag industry. Each panel will be moderated by a Cornell faculty or staff member. Panel topics include:

  • The farmer of tomorrow: Opportunities and challenges in agriculture’s digital revolution; moderated by Tim Vanini ’91, managing director, Cornell Initiative for Digital Agriculture;
  • Is indoor farming the answer to future farming challenges? Moderated by Neil Mattson, associate professor, School of Integrative Plant Science, and director Cornell Controlled Environment Agriculture;
  • New dimensions in buy local/think global – the changing landscape of retail; moderated by Miguel Gómez, associate professor at the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and co-director of the Business of Food Initiative at the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business. 
  • Market explosion or a bursting bubble – what are the long-term opportunities for hemp? Moderated by Larry Smart, associate director, Cornell AgriTech and professor, School of Integrative Plant Science;
  • What do consumers want next? Meeting demand with food and beverage innovation; moderated by Bruno Xavier, senior extension associate and processing authority at the Cornell Food Venture Center;
  • Cultivating fertile ground for funding: capital strategies for food entrepreneurs and agtech startups; moderated by Brad Treat, entrepreneur-in-residence at Rev: Ithaca Startup Works and lecturer at SC Johnson.

The summit’s exhibition hall will showcase more than 70 food and ag startups, corporations, manufacturers, resource providers, trade associations and high-growth innovators.

Visit the Grow-NY Summit website for ticket and volunteer information. Current students can reserve free tickets. To learn more about the Grow-NY startup finalists, mentors and judges, visit

Molly Israel is director of marketing and communications for the Center for Regional Economic Advancement.

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Lindsey Knewstub