Soos Technology, a biotechnology startup based in Kidron, Israel, won the $1 million grand prize in this year’s Grow-NY competition, a global challenge focused on strengthening food and agriculture innovation in central New York, the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier, known as the Grow-NY region.
Soos and six other finalists were awarded a total of $3 million in prizes following the Grow-NY Food and Ag Summit, Nov. 17-18. Administered by Cornell and funded by Empire State Development, Grow-NY capitalized on the virtual format to expand the summit’s reach – more than 1,500 individuals registered to attend. Finalists pitched their business plans to a panel of judges and an online audience spanning the globe.
“With our Grow-NY prize money, we plan to create over 20 high-paying research and engineering jobs in the next two years, by building the New York Poultry Research Hub, which will connect academic research with poultry startups and corporates, to commercialize validated research,” said Yael Alter, CEO of Soos. “We are thrilled to put down roots in the Grow-NY region.”
The company’s AI-driven incubation system is capable of determining sex development in poultry embryos, resulting in a greater number of functional female chicks. The patented technology mitigates the controversial and wasteful practice of male-chick culling by transforming male embryos into egg-laying females using sound vibration and other influences – a noninvasive and nonchemical solution with huge potential for poultry farmers.
“I want to congratulate all the companies that took part in the second round of our Grow-NY Competition,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. ”The Grow-NY targeted investment will not only help these companies continue to innovate, but will further support New York state’s regional economies by drawing even more worldwide attention to our globally renowned food and agriculture industry.”
In addition to the grand prize, two $500,000 prizes and four $250,000 prizes were awarded at the Grow-NY Awards Ceremony on Nov. 23. Three of this year’s $250,000 prize winner were startups with Cornell affiliations:
- Halomine (Ithaca): Led by CEO Ted Eveleth ’90 and CTO Mingyu Qiao, a postdoctoral researcher, the startup is part of the on-campus technology incubator Praxis Center for Venture Development, and is developing antimicrobial solutions – licensed through Cornell’s Center for Technology Licensing – to ensure food safety. Halomine has also partnered with the McGovern Center for Venture Development in the Life Sciences to conduct biological research and testing against coronaviruses.
- Leep Foods (Rochester, New York): Utilizing regenerative soil methods on nutrient-enriched hardwoods to grow organic mushrooms, Leep Foods worked with the Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture at Cornell AgriTech to develop a blended mushroom burger.
- Candidus (Hull, Georgia): Candidus is developing cost-effective supplemental lighting strategies and control systems for commercial greenhouse operations. Co-founder Eric Mattos is also the executive director of the Greenhouse Lighting & Systems Engineering consortium, led in partnership by Cornell and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute of Troy, New York.
New to this year’s competition was the “Audience Choice” award for the startup voted by the public to have the most innovative and promising pitch. Sponsored by Wegmans, the winner Re-Nuble – based in New York City – received $10,000 in prize money and $5,000 in marketing services from The Martin Group. Re-Nuble, which was also a 2019 Grow-NY finalist, converts food waste into industrial-grade, water-soluble organic nutrients for hydroponic farming.
The second year of Grow-NY attracted applications from 264 companies, including startups from 27 countries. In the U.S., 25 states were represented. Twenty-nine percent of applicants included a woman founder and 32% included a founder from an underrepresented minority group. In early September, the top 20 startups were chosen for the pitch competition.
Each finalist was mentored by a hand-selected regional business adviser leading up to the pitch.
“We had a diverse group of innovative entrepreneurs from around the world this year and the competition was fierce. The business plans we heard last week represented twenty ideas, any of which could transform the food, beverage and agriculture industry, and create opportunity in upstate New York,” said Jenn Smith, Grow-NY program director. “Congratulations to all of our competitors for advancing their plans and making connections in the Grow-NY region, and especially to this year’s winners.”
Applications for the next round of the competition will open on March 31, 2021, and the Grow-NY Summit is scheduled to be held next November in Syracuse, New York. Visit the Grow-NY website to learn more about the competition and view the other winners.
Sara Baier is a marketing and communications specialist for the Center for Regional Economic Advancement.