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

March 31, 2021

Grow-NY applications closed

Applications Close

July 15, 2021

Grow-NY Competition Teams Selected

Finalists Selected

September 2021

Grow-NY Pitch Competition

Mentoring & Business Trips

September – November 2021

Grow-NY Competition Winners Announced

Pitch Competition & Summit

(Winners Selected)

November 2021

The competition will run again in 2021


The Grow-NY competition is for food & ag startups from across the globe 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 Competition is limited to applicants that are early-stage companies in the Food and Agriculture Field. As used inthese Terms and Conditions, the term “Food and Agriculture Field” is defined as follows:

  • Physical products, hardware technologies, software technologies, services, or processes that relate to orimpact products that are derived from cultivating plants or enhance human life, such as:
  • Food, including but not limited to fruits, vegetables, grains and cereal crops, meats and dairy products, honey and farmed fish, packaged and prepared food products for distribution;
  • Fuels, including but not limited to ethanol, produced from corn, sugarcane, or sorghum, and agricultural byproducts like straw sugarcane
  • Fibers, including but not limited to fiber crops such as cotton, wool, silk, hemp, flax and bamboo;
  • Raw materials, including but not limited to livestock feed; and
  • Processes or systems that improve the development, growth, production, distribution, delivery, or processing of the

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, entertainment-related establishments, and such other types of business as the University’s Grow-NY Administration Team (the “Administrator”) may reasonably determine from time to time to be inconsistent with the purposes of the Competition. 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. Also excluded areany businesses that do not fit within the definition of “Food and Agriculture Field” above.

Eligibility Requirements for Industrial Hemp Related Businesses:

To be eligible for the Competition, businesses engaged in growing, processing, producing, distributing or selling industrial hemp (or products derived from industrial hemp) must (1) demonstrate appropriate New York State licenses or be currently authorized Research Partners with the Department of Agriculture and Markets, and (2) not manufacture, distribute or sell industrial hemp based products (including but not limited to unapproved drugs, cosmetics, foods, and products marketed as dietary supplements) in violation of federal Food and Drug Administration regulations or other state or federal laws and regulations.

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.

Regional Impact

As a condition of any Award, Recipients must materially locate and maintain a presence on an on-going basis within the Grow-NY Region for at least twelve (12) consecutive months, commencing within three (3) months of the date of the Award. For purposes of this condition, the obligation to materially locate and maintain a presence in the Grow-NY Region may be met in one of the followingways:

  • the applicant shall establish its principal place of business in the Grow-NY Region, identify its primary headquarters as its address in the Grow-NY Region, and have its key officers reside in New York State within commuting distance to this location; or
  • the applicant shall establish its primary manufacturing facility within the Grow-NY Region; or
  • the applicant shall establish its primary research and development facility within the Grow-NY Region; or
  • the applicant shall make substantial capital investments in property, plant and equipment in the Grow-NY

If a Recipient already has its primary offices in New York State, upon receiving an Award it may fulfill its obligation to materially locate and maintain a presence in the Grow-NY Region in one of the ways stated above. In the alternative, such a Recipient may fulfill these obligations by committing to quantified job creation targets in its Grow-NY application and presentations, and documenting achievement of these targets. These job creation targets may include jobs created directly by the company or include those created by the establishment of a Grow-NY Region- based supply chain or other strategic relationships with Grow-NY Region entities. The Administrator shall have the discretion to determine whether an applicant’s job creation targets, both in terms of number and quality of jobs, are acceptable to meet the Location Requirements.

If, during the term of the Location Requirement, the Recipient should stop meeting this Location Requirement, whether by moving outside of New York State, abandoning plans and/or eliminating jobs created as fulfilment of a Grow-NY Award milestone, or otherwise, the Award Agreement may be terminated and the Recipient shall forfeit all unpaid Award amounts and be obligated to immediately repay all disbursed Award amounts.

The Grow-NY Region consists of the following counties:

  • Central NY (Cayuga, Cortland, Madison, Onondaga, and Oswego counties),
  • Finger Lakes (Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Orleans, Ontario, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming, and Yates counties),and
  • Southern Tier (Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Delaware, Schuyler, Steuben, Tioga, and Tompkins counties).


Award Agreement

Winners will select either the SAFE or the Warrant agreement.

SAFE Agreement Warrant Agreement

Terms & Conditions

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

View Terms & Conditions

Frequently Asked Questions

Have more questions?

View the FAQs

Register for the 2020 Grow-NY Summit

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