Richard Ball, left, commissioner of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, is pictured with Hypercell Technologies co-founders Bruno and Sam Jactel after the Peachtree Corners, Georgia, startup won the 2023 Grow-NY competition and the $1 million grand prize.

Grow-NY winners aim to make regional economic impact

Hypercell Technologies of Peachtree Corners, Georgia, was named the $1 million grand prize winner of the fifth annual Grow-NY Food and Agriculture business competition. Six other winners split a combined $3 million in awards.

Hypercell Technologies, a startup that provides rapid point-of-care diagnostics for the food chain, was one of eight finalists to take home prize money during the Grow-NY Food and Ag Summit, held Nov. 14-15 at the Holiday Inn Binghamton Downtown and virtually. The competition is funded by Empire State Development and administered by Cornell’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement (CREA), a division of the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation.

Cornell impacting New York State

“We’re honored to join the portfolio of Grow-NY winners and are inspired by the startups we competed alongside in this year’s competition,” said Bruno Jactel, CEO and co-founder of Hypercell Technologies. “The prize money and innovation ecosystem in upstate New York will help us grow faster and more sustainably.”

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 twenty-three food and ag startups from 49 countries and 32 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.

“Year after year, the Grow-NY competition showcases New York’s many cutting-edge, diverse food businesses whose work strengthens our agricultural industry and gives a boost to our farmers,” said Richard Ball, commissioner of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. “Thanks to Governor Hochul’s continued support of Grow-NY, this competition has become an annual tradition that not only highlights New York agriculture today, but also speaks to the exciting future opportunities of tomorrow.”

Nearly 1,000 people registered to attend the summit, where the 20 finalists pitched their businesses to a panel of judges. The summit also allowed attendees to engage with a series of panels and fireside chats that spotlighted the technologies being developed locally and their impact beyond the region, as well as network with more than 40 food and agricultural exhibitors.

In addition to the $1 million award, two $500,000 and four $250,000 prizes were distributed. Among the $250,000 winners was Ithaca-based Clean Label Solution, which receives mentorship and advice from the Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture at Cornell AgriTech in the production of its soy-based animal feeds. Other winners include:

  • $500,000: Crover (Edinburgh, United Kingdom) – Crover’s “grain swimming” robotic technology helps improve grain storage by maintaining optimum conditions and reducing losses.
  • $500,000: SomaDetect (Ontario) – SomaDetect’s software system offers dairy producers milk-based data straight from their milking line. The startup is advised by Roger Saltman, D.V.M. ’81, and performed early testing of its sensor with Julio Giordano, associate professor of animal science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, with funding from the New York Farm Viability Institute.
  • $250,000: Cattle Scan (Toronto) – Cattle Scan’s bolus system allows dairy farmers to monitor individual cattle in real-time.
  • $250,000: Mush Foods (Poughkeepsie, New York) – Mush Foods transforms edible mushroom mycelium into a sustainable, animal-free protein.
  • $250,000: MycoLogic (Kennesaw, Georgia) – Founded by CEO Luc Lalire, M.P.S. ’22, MycoLogic provides a comprehensive solution for starting or expanding specialty mushroom cultivation businesses.

“The Grow-NY competition continues to drive innovation and climate-smart agriculture to upstate New York during a critical time,” said Krystyn J. Van Vliet, vice president for research and innovation. “I am pleased to congratulate this year’s prize winners and look forward to the future collaborations between these startups and Cornell Research and Innovation.”

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 the economy.

The competition also included a $10,000 Wegmans Audience Choice Award in which attendees were encouraged to vote for their favorite startup online. Soil-based vertical farm operation Big Yield Growers was this year’s awardee.

“It is incredibly exciting to learn which startups will be scaling solutions, solving problems and creating opportunities in the food and ag sector right here in upstate New York in the coming months,” said Jenn Smith, director of food and ag innovation programs at CREA. “We’re grateful to all the finalists and the judges and offer congratulations to the winners.”

Applications for the next round of the Grow-NY competition will open in March 2024.

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

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