Lachlan Campbell, left, CEO and co-founder of ProAgni, is pictured with New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets commissioner Richard Ball and ProAgni commercial director Warren Lee after the Lavington, Australia startup won the Grow-NY competition and the $1 million top prize.

ProAgni awarded $1M Grow-NY top prize

ProAgni, a startup hailing from Lavington, Australia that creates supplements and feeds for livestock to lower methane emissions, has been named the $1 million grand prize winner of the fourth annual Grow-NY Food and Agriculture competition.

ProAgni was one of eight finalists to take home prize money during the Grow-NY Food and Ag Summit, held Nov. 15-16 at the Oncenter in Syracuse and virtually. The competition is funded by Empire State Development and administered by Cornell’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement.

“We are honored to join the incredible roster of Grow-NY winners, and are grateful to New York state, Grow-NY and the Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture for their support,” said Lachlan Campbell, CEO and co-founder of ProAgni. “We’re excited to expand our mission to revolutionize supplements and feeds for livestock that lower methane emissions into Upstate New York, and the prize money will allow us to make an even greater impact.”

Cornell impacting New York State

Grow-NY is a food and agriculture startup challenge focused on enhancing the emerging food, beverage and agriculture innovation cluster in Central New York, the Finger Lakes and the Southern Tier. Three hundred and ninety food and ag startups from 52 countries and 25 states applied to compete, and the top 20 were chosen as finalists, receiving individualized mentorship and introductions to resources and potential partners in Upstate New York.

More than 1,200 people registered to attend the summit, where the 20 finalists pitched to a panel of judges and vied for a combined $3 million in prize money. The summit also allowed attendees to engage with a series of panels and fireside chats inspired by Cornell’s 2030 Project and network with 60 food and agricultural exhibitors. In addition to the $1 million award, two $500,000 and four $250,000 prizes were distributed. Other winners, including four with Cornell ties:

  • $500,000: Craft Cannery (Bergen, New York) – Craft Cannery, which manufactures sauces, dressings and marinades, receives advice and mentorship from the Cornell Food Venture Center (CFVC) and the New York State Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture at Cornell AgriTech, and uses Cornell as a process authority.
  • $500,000: Hempitecture (Ketchum, Idaho) – Hempitecture creates energy-efficient, biobased insulation that makes construction projects more sustainable.
  • $250,000: Labby (Cambridge, Massachusetts) – Labby provides rapid and affordable solutions for dairy farms through its AI-enabled raw milk testing.
  • $250,000: Sweet Pea Plant-Based Kitchen (Rochester) – Sweet Pea’s plant-centric meal service and nutrition coaching helps people sustain a healthy life; founding member Jen Nguyen completed her dietetic internship at Cornell in 2018.
  • $250,000: Vivid Machines (Toronto) – Vivid Machines has a collaboration agreement with Cornell to use its Vivid X-Vision system for grape disease detection and management, which can capture the visible and chemical details of every plant across an entire crop from bud to harvest to provide means for early diagnosis of pests, diseases and nutrient deficiencies.
  • $250,000: Zalliant (Amsterdam, New York) – Founded by CEO John Balbian ’95, Zalliant uses Internet of Things and artificial intelligence technologies to help farmers improve their decision making and management.

The winning teams must commit to operating in the Central New York, Finger Lakes or Southern Tier regions for at least one year as they work toward making a positive economic impact in the Grow-NY region. The seven startups will foster job growth, connect with local industry partners and contribute to a thriving economy.

The competition also included a $10,000 Audience Choice Award, sponsored by Wegmans. Attendees, both in person and virtual, were encouraged to vote for their favorite startup online. Seneca Farms Biochar, a startup that produces biochar, wood vinegar and activated carbon at scale to reduce dependency on chemical pesticides, was this year’s awardee.

“Grow-NY finalists and winners continue to surpass our expectations on all fronts, successfully leveraging the strengths of the region to scale their ventures, adding jobs, attracting investment and reinforcing New York’s role as a global agrifood leader,” said Grow-NY program director Jenn Smith. “I offer my most enthusiastic congratulations to this year’s cohort.”

Applications for the next round of the Grow-NY competition will open in April 2023.

Lauren Simpson is a marketing and communications coordinator for the Center for Regional Economic Advancement.

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Abby Kozlowski