Empire State Development Announces Finalists for Round Five of $3 Million Grow-NY Global Food and Agriculture Business Competition

Test tube in a lab holding a seedling.

Empire State Development Announces Finalists for Round Five of $3 Million Grow-NY Global Food and Agriculture Business Competition

20 Startups from Across the Globe will Compete to Win a Combined Total of $3 Million in Prize Money at Upcoming Summit Nov. 14-15 

Competition is Funded Through Upstate Revitalization Initiatives – Finger Lakes Forward, CNY Rising, and Southern Tier Soaring – Regional Comprehensive Strategies to Revitalize Communities and Grow the Economy 

Empire State Development (ESD) and Cornell University’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement (CREA) today announced the 20 finalists selected to take part in year five of Grow-NY, a food and agriculture business competition focused on enhancing the emerging food, beverage, and agriculture innovation cluster in upstate New York. The competition is funded through New York state’s Upstate Revitalization Initiative and administered by CREA. Winning companies will be required to make a positive economic impact in the Grow-NY region, which comprises 22 counties located in Central NY, the Finger Lakes, and the Southern Tier regions. 

Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Hope Knight, said, “The innovative Grow-NY business competition has once again attracted a group of exceptional startups and entrepreneurial talent from around the world. 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.” 

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball, said, “For five years, the Grow-NY competition has showcased the strength and diversity of New York State’s agriculture and food businesses. The program has consistently helped enhance our agricultural economy, attracting exciting, cutting-edge companies that are creating innovative new agricultural technologies and career paths while supporting New York farmers. I congratulate not only the finalists, but all the startups and entrepreneurs who participated in the competition and look forward to seeing all that they will go on to do.” 

In total, 323 startups applied from 49 countries, including Canada, the UK, and Italy. Domestic teams also showed strong interest, with 32 states represented in the applicant pool, including 81 entries from New York. Forty-two percent of applicants included a female founder, and 61 percent included a founder from an underrepresented minority group. 

A panel of 30 judges, reflecting a depth and breadth of regional expertise, knowledge of the region’s agriculture and food production communities, and entrepreneurial experience, reviewed all the applications to determine the top 20 finalists that will pitch their business plans at the Grow-NY Food and Ag Summit in Binghamton in November. Grow-NY will award a total of $3 million in prize money to seven winners. This includes a $1 million top prize, two $500,000 awards, and four $250,000 prizes. 

The 20 selected finalists, in alphabetical order, include: 

  • Agriwater Corp, Champaign, Ill. – Agriwater uses electrolysis to precipitate contaminants from on-farm manure liquid, resulting in the elimination of odor, toxins, and GHGs from wastewater, maintaining environmental compliance, creating an additional water source, and providing recurring revenue streams from the sale of carbon credits.  
  • Big Yield Growers, Endicott, N.Y. – Big Yield Growers is a soil-based vertical farm operation that works with local communities to establish long-term livelihood and organic farming practices while providing the local area with fresh, high quality produce.
  • Blue Cove Fish LLC, New York City – Blue Cove Fish is a low-volume craft seafood cannery that partners with local and sustainable suppliers of seafood, therefore contributing to the development of local aquaculture and food systems, while manufacturing canned seafood products with artisanal techniques and climate-smart packaging.  
  • Cattle Scan, Guelph, Canada – Cattle Scan’s cattle monitoring bolus allows dairy farmers to facilitate real-time monitoring of individual cattle, improving overall herd health, increasing production efficiency, and helping advance business sustainability and operational excellence. 
  • Clean Label Solution LLC, Ithaca, N.Y. – Clean Label Solution has proprietary technology that improves protein and fat digestibility and reduces CO2 emissions and energy consumption in the production of soy-based animal feeds for livestock such as dairy cattle, poultry, deer, and fish farms. 
  • Crover, Edinburgh, United Kingdom – Crover is on a mission to help grain storage operators reduce losses and maintain optimum storage conditions, efficiently and remotely monitoring and maintaining the quality of grain bulks through its “grain swimming” robotic technology. 
  • FaunaTech, Bangalore, India – Fauna is the first smartphone-connected, hand-held diagnostic platform to measure important biomarkers in meat, poultry, and grains, leading to the early detection of critical herd diseases, reducing antibiotic usage, and monitoring food quality at the farm gate. 
  • FoodNerd, Buffalo, N.Y. – FoodNerd creates positively processed plant-based food with a purpose. Their sprouting process maintains and increases the nutritional content found naturally in food, rather than degrading it. 
  • Grape.ag, Cupertino, Calif. – Grape.ag gives plants a voice with its sensors and communication devices, allowing for the unique care of each plant in a vineyard and providing valuable atmospheric and soil information that enables vintners to visualize hyper-local conditions in real-time, find trends, and make better decisions. 
  • GR8PE by Stil-Bène, Geneva, N.Y. – Stil-Bène transforms grape pomace, the skins and seeds left over after pressing grapes, into a powdered dietary supplement designed to improve digestive health. 
  • HempWood, Murray, Ky. – Fibonacci’s HempWood Organic Flooring is an engineered hardwood flooring that is sustainable, healthy, durable, and made in America using a plant-based, no-added formaldehyde adhesive, which emits no VOCs, is renewable and carbon negative, and water and scratch resistant. 
  • Hypercell Technologies, Peachtree Corners, Ga. – Hypercell Technologies provides rapid point-of-care diagnostics for the food chain, ensuring early identification and management of biological contaminants from production to transformation with increased speed and accuracy.  
  • KEHO, New York City – KEHO makes complex science deliciously digestible, curating savory snack bars that are keto-friendly and 100% plant-based. With no sugars, sweeteners, artificial flavors, or colors, KEHO packs up real food for real lives.  
  • LeafSpec LLC, West Lafayette, Ind. – LeafSpec is an accurate, affordable, and portable hyperspectral crop leaf imager that provides measurements of a plant’s physiological features such as leaf moisture content, chlorophyll content, nitrogen content, pathogen and insect diseases, and stresses from chemical sprays without damage to the plant. 
  • Mush Foods, New York City – Mush Foods harnesses the power and intelligence of mushrooms with its edible mushroom mycelium, creating a groundbreaking, sustainable, animal-free protein for the food and beverage industry. 
  • MycoLogic, Kennesaw, Ga. – MycoLogic is a comprehensive solution for starting or expanding your specialty mushroom cultivation business. They provide hardware and software for the semi-autonomous cultivation of specialty mushrooms, as well as biological support and consultation.  
  • SomaDetect Inc., Halifax, Canada – SomaDetect’s cutting-edge sensor and software system provides farmers with the information they need to make the best milk possible, offering dairy producers automatic and reliable milk-based data directly from their milking line to streamline day-to-day operations of dairy farms. 
  • TAINR, Los Angeles – TAINR modernizes the grocery store’s outdated bulk aisle with a smart refill kiosk that moves inventory efficiently, reduces restocking times, and eliminates product losses and single-use plastic packaging waste.  
  • We Are The New Farmers, Brooklyn, N.Y. – We Are The New Farmers brings the benefits of microalgae straight into smoothies with its fresh, frozen, farm-grown spirulina cubes packed with dense micronutrients and loaded with antioxidants. 
  • Wisely, Inc., Wilmington, N.C. – Wisely has developed a smart food storage system that reduces waste by allowing users the ability to track the time and conditions in which their perishables are stored. The system includes a Wisely Smart Sensor Disc integrated with Wi-Fi connectivity to give the user detailed and personalized insights through the Wisely Mobile Companion App. 

The 10-week business development phase is an accelerator through which the 20 finalists receive: 

  • Dedicated mentorship from a business advisor selected by our program team for their subject matter expertise and presence in the region; 
  • Introduction to the region’s leaders and resources to connect them to potential partnerships and other strategic opportunities; 
  • Site visits, business tours, and industrial and economic development agency introductions for finalist team representatives;  
  • Business development support and workshops helping them fine-tune their regional plans; and 
  • Pitch training to hone their live presentation skills for the Grow-NY judges and other potential sources of capital. 

“We saw the Grow-NY effect in action with this year’s applications. The successes of our portfolio of winning companies attracted participation from startups innovating throughout the agrifood supply chain across the globe, addressing main street economic health, the climate crisis, and how we feed our growing population,” said Jenn Smith, Program Director, Grow-NY. “We are thrilled to welcome the 20 startups selected to participate in this year’s accelerator.” 

The accelerator culminates with a live pitch at the Grow-NY Food and Ag Summit, scheduled for November 14 and 15, at the Holiday Inn Downtown in Binghamton. The Summit will be held in two formats simultaneously, in-person and virtually, with finalists pitching their business ideas live in front of an audience and answering questions from a judging panel. The event also includes a food and agriculture symposium and ecosystem expo. This year’s winners will be revealed in a live awards presentation at the conclusion of the Summit. 

“It is equal parts inspiring and exciting to see Grow-NY’s business competition gaining global recognition in its fifth year,” said Benjamin Houlton, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “Cornell CALS is proud to leverage our research and development strengths in support of this year’s cohort of startups, as they tackle the most complex challenges of our time—working to improve our world’s health, food, economy, and environment, while simultaneously bolstering New York’s innovation ecosystem.” 

Registration for the Summit is now open. To learn more about the finalists, mentors, and register for the Summit, visit grow-ny.com 

To learn more about Cornell’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement (CREA), visit https://crea.cornell.edu. 

Accelerating Finger Lakes Forward 

Today’s announcement complements “Finger Lakes Forward,” the region’s comprehensive blueprint to generate robust economic growth and community development. The regionally designed plan focuses on investing in key industries including photonics, agriculture‎ and food production, and advanced manufacturing. Now, the region is accelerating Finger Lakes Forward with a $500 million State investment through the Upstate Revitalization Initiative. The State’s $500 million investment will incentivize private business to invest well over $2.5 billion – and the region’s plan, as submitted, projects up to 8,200 new jobs. More information is available here. 

Accelerating CNY Rising 

Today’s announcement complements “CNY Rising,” the region’s comprehensive blueprint to generate robust economic growth and community development. The regionally designed plan focuses on capitalizing on global market opportunities, strengthening entrepreneurship and creating an inclusive economy. Now, the region is accelerating CNY Rising with a $500 million State investment through the Upstate Revitalization Initiative. The State’s $500 million investment will incentivize private business to invest well over $2.5 billion – and the region’s plan, as submitted, projects up to 5,900 new jobs. More information is available here. 

Accelerating Southern Tier Soaring 

Today’s announcement complements “Southern Tier Soaring,” the region’s comprehensive blueprint to generate robust economic growth and community development. The regionally designed plan focuses on attracting a talented workforce, growing business and driving innovation. Now, the region is accelerating Southern Tier Soaring with a $500 million State investment through the Upstate Revitalization Initiative. The State’s $500 million investment will incentivize private business to invest well over $2.5 billion – and the region’s plan, as submitted, projects up to 10,200 new jobs. More information is available here. 

About Empire State Development  

Empire State Development (ESD) is New York’s chief economic development agency. The mission of ESD is to promote a vigorous and growing economy, encourage the creation of new job and economic opportunities, increase revenues to the State and its municipalities, and achieve stable and diversified local economies. Through the use of loans, grants, tax credits, and other forms of financial assistance, ESD strives to enhance private business investment and growth to spur job creation and support prosperous communities across New York State. ESD is also the primary administrative agency overseeing the state’s Regional Economic Development Councils and the marketing of “I LOVE NY,” the State’s iconic tourism brand. For more information on Regional Councils and Empire State Development, please visit www.regionalcouncils.ny.gov and www.esd.ny.gov

Send this to a friend