The startups battling for $3 million in prize money in the fifth annual Grow-NY Food and Agriculture Business Competition aren’t just bringing revolutionary innovations to market that could change the way we feed our planet – they are enriching the region’s robust agri-food system, too.
Grow-NY is a global competition focused on enhancing the emerging food, beverage and agriculture innovation cluster in the Central New York, Finger Lakes and Southern Tier regions of upstate New York. The competition is funded by Empire State Development and administered by Cornell’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement, a division of the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation.
Twenty finalists were selected from more than 320 applicants, including 81 entries from New York state. The advancing startups hail from seven different states and four countries, with seven finalists from New York.
Over the next two months, the finalists will receive business development support and one-on-one mentorship from industry experts. Representatives from each startup will make a fully funded trip to the region to expand their networks, develop strategic relationships and envision the positive impact their company will be required to make on the region if selected as a winner. They’ll then pitch their business plans to a live audience at the Grow-NY Summit, Nov. 14-15 at the Holiday Inn Binghamton Downtown in Binghamton, New York. One grand prize winner will receive $1 million, two will be awarded $500,000 and four will take home $250,000.
“The innovative Grow-NY business competition has once again attracted a group of exceptional startups and entrepreneurial talent from around the world,” said Hope Knight, Empire State Development president, CEO and commissioner. “Grow-NY’s agribusiness focus demonstrates New York state’s continued dedication to supporting agriculture advancements that will create jobs and grow the Central New York, Finger Lakes and Southern Tier economies.”
More than half of this year’s finalists have ties to the Cornell community, including GR8PE by Stil-bène, a Geneva, New York-based startup co-founded by Elad Tako, associate professor of food science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS). Daniel Williams Hooker ’93, senior lecturer in the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management in the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, and Todd M. Schmit, M.S. ’94, Ph.D. ’03, Dyson professor and faculty director of the AgriBusiness and Rural Development and Cooperative Enterprise programs, advise this startup, which transforms grape pomace into a dietary supplement to improve digestive health.
That company, winner of the Best New Concord Grape-Based Product and a $20,000 cash prize at the 2022 New York Concord Grape Innovation Awards. is one of six finalists that receive mentorship and advice from the Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture at Cornell AgriTech, which serves as a partner in advancing Grow-NY’s mission. Other finalists that are members of the Center of Excellence include:
- Blue Cove Fish (New York City) – a low-volume craft seafood cannery that partners with sustainable seafood suppliers to contribute to the development of local aquaculture;
- Clean Label Solution (Ithaca) – a technology that improves protein and fat digestibility and reduces carbon dioxide emissions and energy consumption in the production of soy-based animal feeds;
- KEHO (New York City) – manufactures plant-based snack bars;
- We Are The New Farmers (New York City) – produces fresh, frozen, farm-grown spirulina cubes; and
- Wisely (Wilmington, North Carolina) – a smart food storage system that provides personalized insights and reduces waste.
Five additional finalists utilize various other Cornell resources and experts to advance their startups. Information about all the finalists can be found on the Grow-NY website.
This year’s Grow-NY Summit, featuring a pitch competition, educational symposium and Ecosystem Expo with services for startups, will feature an all-access, in-person component, as well as the option to view virtually. All-access registration is $65, $25 for students, and virtual registration is free. For more information on the Grow-NY Summit and to register, visit grow-ny.com.
Lauren Simpson is a marketing communications coordinator for the Center for Regional Economic Advancement.