Grow-NY Summit to inspire conversation and innovation
By Lauren Simpson
The fourth annual Grow-NY Summit will bring food and ag startups and industry players together at the Syracuse Oncenter on Nov. 15-16, spotlighting the spaces where farms and food, innovation and sustainability overlap.
Cornell’s 2030 Project will serve as inspiration for the two-day symposium, which will comprise panels and fireside chats relating to its mission to seek practical, real-world climate solutions within the agrifood sector.
“This year’s Grow-NY competition is a powerful example of the 2030 Project’s ambitions to mobilize the Cornell community, in partnership with entrepreneurs across New York state and the world, to take action on climate change and develop the food and farms of the future,” said Ben Furnas, executive director of the 2030 Project.
The Grow-NY Food and Agriculture business competition serves as a platform not only for innovation but also for provoking conversations that encourage progress in food and farming while tackling the biggest problems confronting agrifood systems.
The summit, which can be attended in person or virtually, will include a pitch competition featuring 20 startups from around the globe. On Nov. 17 at 9:30 a.m., a virtual awards presentation will announce the four $250,000 and two $500,000 winners, as well as one $1 million grand-prize recipient.
The event will provide an opportunity for experts in a variety of sectors to exchange new ideas and challenge existing ones. They’ll also be able to network at the Ecosystem Expo, where startups, incubators, economic development agencies, small business partners and other organizations that support the innovation ecosystem in New York state convene to share their services.
The symposium’s opening session, “The 2030 Project: Driving Towards Net Zero in Food and Farming,” at 9 a.m. Nov. 15, will include Lynden A. Archer, the Joseph Silbert Dean of Engineering, and Catharine Young, executive director of the New York State Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture at Cornell Agritech. Archer and Young will speak about engineering food security, preparing for a warming world and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, a goal of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act of New York.
Other Cornellian-led sessions will include:
- Finding Common Ground: Traditions and Alternatives in Protein Production (9:20 to 10:15 a.m., Nov. 15): This panel discussion, moderated by Sam Alcaine, M.S. ’07, associate professor of food science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and founder and CEO of two-time Grow-NY finalist Norwhey Brewing, will discuss whether producers of dairy, meat and plant protein can contribute to a positive-sum system.
- Agrifood Alchemy: Tackling Food Waste and Creating Circularity (2 to 3 p.m., Nov. 15): This conversation, led by Lori Leonard, professor and inaugural chair in the Department of Global Development (CALS), will discuss new technologies allowing farmers and food producers to turn food waste into profitable products such as animal feed and fuel while meeting New York’s organics waste ban on landfill disposal.
- Staffing the Farm of the Future: Technologies, Capabilities and Skills (9 to 9:55 a.m., Nov. 16): This panel, facilitated by Richard Stup, lead of the Agricultural Workforce Development program in CALS and senior extension associate in the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, will analyze the prospects and barriers for adoption of robotics and other forms of automation by farms and food producers.
- Moonshots: Redesigning 21st Century Agrifood Systems (9:55 to 10:15 a.m., Nov. 16): A fireside chat featuring Benjamin Z. Houlton, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of CALS, and Young will discuss how big ideas and innovative thinking across disciplines are the answer to nourishing people and planet as interconnected systems.
- Accelerating New York’s Bioeconomy: Innovative Production of Food, Fiber and Feedstocks (4 to 5 p.m., Nov. 16): Led by Jillian Goldfarb, associate professor and director of undergraduate studies in CALS, this panel will consider the role that innovation in the biomaterials sector can play in driving economic opportunities for farming and food production.
- Innovations in Intensification: Sustainable Food Production in New York and the Northeast (5 to 5:30 p.m., Nov. 16): In the symposium’s closing session, Grow-NY program director Jenn Smith and Richard Ball, commissioner of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, will share plans to develop stronger, more vibrant local and regional food system networks among New York state’s small, medium and large-scale farms and food production facilities, as well as those throughout the Northeast.
“Each year, the Grow-NY Summit strives to encourage progress in our farming and food systems, showcasing startups and industry players that are taking integral steps in improving the way in which we feed our planet,” Smith said. “With Cornell’s role and the nature of the summit, we are in a unique position to spark debate and foster conversation to the benefit of New York’s agrifood community, and everyone in that community is invited to join the dialogue.”
All-access registration for the Grow-NY Summit is $50, $25 for students, and virtual registration is free. For more information and to register, visit grow-ny.com.
Lauren Simpson is a marketing and communications coordinator for the Center for Regional Economic Advancement.