Competition Details

High-growth food and agriculture startups from across the globe will compete to win up to $1 million

Why Grow-NY?

A Competition for Food and Agriculture Innovation

Grow-NY is an unprecedented food and agriculture business competition that identifies, supports, and funds the top food, beverage, and agriculture innovations across the globe. The competition includes a $1 million top prize, mentorship, training, business development support, and tax incentives.

The Grow-NY Region

Winning companies commit to making a positive impact in the growing startup hub located in New York state’s Finger Lakes, Central NY, and Southern Tier regions. Learn more about the Grow-NY Region.

Annual Prize Awards

Each year, Grow-NY will award $3 million in prize money to seven winners,
all payable in stages based on business milestones.

Grow-NY Competition Winners Announced

One grand prize
of $1 million

Grow-NY Food and Agriculture Competition prizes

Two $500,000 prizes

Grow-NY Food and Agriculture Competition Awards

Four $250,000 prizes

Competition Benefits & Support

All finalists (up to 20 companies) receive:

Dedicated mentorship from a hand-selected business advisor

Additional pitch training to hone your live pitch for the judges 

An expenses paid three-day business development trip to the region

Up to two team members from finalist teams will travel to the region for networking introductions, business tours with potential partners, and valuable appointments

Competition Timeline

Grow-NY Applications Open

Applications Open

April 1, 2020

Grow-NY applications closed

Applications Close

July 15, 2020

Grow-NY Competition Teams Selected

Finalists Selected

August 2020

Grow-NY Pitch Competition

Mentoring & Business Trips

September – October, 2020

Grow-NY Competition Winners Announced

Pitch Competition & Summit

(Winners Selected)

November 17-18, 2020

The competition will run again in 2020 and 2021


The Grow-NY competition is for startups with growth potential in food and agriculture.

To be eligible, an applicant must be an established business entity in the food and agriculture space that meets New York State’s criteria for being “in the formative stage”, which is two or more of the following criteria:

  • Less than seven years from date of formal organization
  • Has its first product or service in testing or pilot production
  • Pre-revenue or early revenue
  • Has a leadership team and investors working toward commercialization and profitability

If the business is a spin-off from an existing business that does not meet the above criteria, the new entity must be pursuing a substantially new technology or business model.

The “food and agriculture space” includes food and agriculture companies at every point in the agri-food value chain that are working to serve a growing population, while striving to employ sustainable, environmentally conscious, and/or healthy methods. Examples of food and agriculture startups include, but are not limited to, companies that:

  • Research and design new crop varieties
  • Offer new methods and/or tools to support the efficient growing, monitoring, and harvesting of crops and livestock
  • Offer new and/or improved methods for producing, preparing, and packaging food and beverage products or ingredients
  • Represent high-growth opportunities for new and innovative food and beverage products or ingredients

The following businesses are NOT eligible for the competition: investment vehicles that invest in the securities of other entities, residential real property and retail businesses, sports venues, gaming and gambling businesses, places of overnight accommodation, past Grow-NY cash-prize winners, or entertainment-related establishments. For this purpose, “retail business” means a business that is primarily engaged in making retail sales of goods or services to customers who personally visit such facilities to obtain goods or services. In addition, generally excluded are the following: buy-outs, roll-ups, real estate syndications, tax shelters and franchise-based outlets.

Judging Criteria

Each year, a panel of judges will award $3 million in prize money, payable in increments. Judges will base award decisions on the following criteria:

  • Viability of Commercialization and Business Model – Generation of revenue and maintenance of a cost structure that allows for a competitive and sustainable business; demonstrated readiness of the applicant’s technology or innovation to fulfill its needed value proposition
  • Customer Value – Provision of significant value for customers for which they are willing to pay; addressing a substantial market
  • Food and Agriculture Innovation – Pushing the state-of-the-art in food and agriculture and contributing to making Upstate NY a global leader in food and agriculture innovation
  • Regional Job Creation – Potential for creation of high-quality jobs in the Grow-NY region
  • Team – Quality and completeness of the team and their readiness to deliver

Winner Selection

A panel of judges will review all of the submitted applications and select up to 20 finalists. Those finalists will pitch their business and plans to a live audience and panel of judges during the pitch competition in the region. Each pitch will be followed by brief question period for judges to seek more information. After all pitches are completed, the judges will determine the winners, taking into account input from the previous judging round, and winners will be announced.

Grow-NY Requirements for Award Payments

Grow-NY prizes will be distributed through a contract, with provisions tied to operating in at least one of the three regions for a minimum of 12 months, and a requirement to repay the award if the residency requirement is not met. The agreement also contains a “pay it forward” provision in the form of an equity warrant. Prize payments will be made in stages, based on milestone completion.

Location Requirement

Awardees must locate and/or conduct business in the Grow-NY region. The counties in the region are:

Central NY (Cayuga, Cortland, Madison, Onondaga, and Oswego counties)

Finger Lakes (Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Orleans, Ontario, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming, and Yates counties)

Southern Tier (and Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Delaware, Schuyler, Steuben, Tioga, and Tompkins counties)

This obligation may be met in one of the following ways:

  • Establishing its principal place of business in one of the regions, identifying its primary headquarters as its address in the regions, and having its key officers reside in New York state within commuting distance to this location
  • Establishing its primary manufacturing facility within the regions
  • Establishing its primary research and development facility within the regions
  • The applicant shall make substantial capital investments in property, plant and equipment within the Grow-NY Region
  • If the applicant is currently operating in New York state, the applicant may fulfill these obligations by committing to a quantified job creation target


Learn more about the competition process, eligibility, winner selection, and award agreements.

View Terms & Conditions SAFE Agreement Warrant Agreement

Frequently Asked Questions

Have more questions?

View the FAQs

The application period for 2019 has closed.

Applications will be live April 1, 2020.

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