Report guides food, ag entrepreneurs; $1M contest opens

A first-of-its-kind report intends to guide innovators and investors toward urgent technology needs in New York’s robust farming and food processing industries, as identified by dozens of farmers, manufacturers, retailers, researchers and other key stakeholders.

The report, titled A Call for Innovation: New York’s Agrifood System, seeks to foster regionalization and diversity in these industries by offering evidence-based recommendations and guidance to aspiring entrepreneurs in agriculture, food processing and distribution.

Cornell impacting New York State

The research and subsequent report are a collaboration between the Center of Excellence (COE) for Food and Agriculture at Cornell AgriTech and Grow-NY, a food and agriculture innovation program administered by Cornell’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement, which also announced the opening of round three of its startup business competition.

For the report, the centers looked to the people who grow, process, transport, store and sell food in New York to identify common constraints, and found significant recurring themes that represent opportunities for startups and industry leaders.

The report dives into the trends that should enable New York farmers and food producers to scale and continue to produce and sell quality food and beverages, while reducing costs and environmental impacts and responding to changes in land and labor availability costs.

“These trends represent problems in search of answers – as well as sectors that have already pulled millions of venture capital dollars into the region – that startups and innovators should notice,” said Cathy Young, COE director. “Agriculture exists in every corner of our state, from western New York to the top of Long Island. This is a call to build on our agrifood system, which impacts every resident in some way.”

Meanwhile, applications are now being accepted for the 2021 Grow-NY $1 million-dollar top prize competition, which has already garnered more than 460 applications from businesses originating in 32 states and 37 other countries over the previous two years.

“The Grow-NY competition brings together the best entrepreneurial minds in the world to boost job growth and make our agricultural industry even stronger in New York state,” said New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul. “While we continue to build back better for a more sustainable post-pandemic future, round three of the Grow-NY competition will bring investment and opportunity to New York’s farmers and rural communities.”

Winners are required to positively impact the Grow-NY region, grow job opportunities, connect with local industry partners and contribute to a thriving upstate economy. In the first two years, the program has generated dozens of new jobs in the region. Winners have also engaged with partners to create many indirect opportunities in agriculture, distribution, food processing, manufacturing and beyond.

Last year’s grand prize winner was Soos Technology, a startup that mitigates male-chick culling by transforming male chickens into egg-laying females. Five of the eight $250,000 winners – Candidus, Capro-X, Combplex, Halomine, Leep Foods and Whole Healthy Foods – have Cornell connections.

“We believe that the call for innovation will boost the already considerable impact that the Grow-NY competition is having in our region” said Grow-NY program director Jenn Smith. “Startups from around the world will gain a clear understanding of the needs of our agrifood system, making this year’s set of applications ever more relevant to our goals.”

This September, up to 20 finalists will be selected and will enter the mentoring and business development phase of the competition. Finalists will pitch their ideas and business plans at the Grow-NY Food and Ag Summit, a public symposium and industry forum, November 15-17.

Both the agrifood report and Grow-NY competition and summit represent Cornell’s commitment to support the farm and food economy in New York state and to foster economic growth in the region.

“We’re looking for difference-makers who can empower farmers, improve speed-to-market and strengthen customer relationships,” Young said. “Efficiencies like these will enhance the top and bottom lines of New York’s food producers, distributors and retailers, and further strengthen its position as a major producer of agricultural products”

Leigh Martino Toerper is a marketing and communications specialist for the Center for Regional Economic Advancement.

Media Contact

Lindsey Knewstub