Empire State Development Announces Finalists Selected for Round Three of the Grow-NY Food and Agriculture Business Competition

Honey bees cluster on a honey comb

Empire State Development Announces Finalists Selected for Round Three of the Grow-NY Food and Agriculture Business Competition

20 Startups from Across the Globe will Compete to Win a Combined Total of $3 Million in Prize Money

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) today announced the 20 finalists selected to take part in round three of Grow-NY, a food innovation and agriculture technology business challenge focused on enhancing the emerging food, beverage and agriculture innovation cluster in Central New York, the Finger Lakes, and the Southern Tier. In total, 330 startups from around the globe applied this year in the hopes of participating in the mentoring competition. The Grow-NY region includes a broad 22-county swath featuring Upstate New York’s farming community as well as several major urban centers, including Rochester, Syracuse, Ithaca and Binghamton. Cornell University’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement administers the competition and New York State is providing funding for the Grow-NY competition through the Upstate Revitalization Initiative connected with the three regions – CNY Rising, Finger Lakes Forward and Southern Tier Soaring. The winner will be required to make a positive economic impact in the Grow-NY region.

“Round three of the Grow-NY business competition has once again attracted a group of exceptional startups and entrepreneurial talent from around the world”, said Empire State Development Chief Operating Officer and Executive Deputy Commissioner Kevin Younis. “Through this competition, New York State continues its dedicated, focused effort to support agriculture innovation that will create jobs and grow the Central New York, Finger Lakes, and Southern Tier economies.”

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “The Grow-NY competition is an exciting opportunity for so many of these start-up businesses that are innovating and changing the future of agriculture. The finalist selected in this round are investing in cutting-edge technology and smart solutions to help various sectors of the industry to increase their profitability and optimize production, helping to support our farmers and the continued success of New York agriculture.”

This year’s Grow-NY competition attracted applications from 32 countries including Singapore, Israel, and Switzerland. In the U.S., 23 states were represented, including 138 entries from New York. 44% of applicants included a female founder and 51% included a founder from an underrepresented minority group, which is a significant increase from last year’s applicant pool. A panel of 30 independent judges, reflecting a depth and breadth of agriculture, food production, and entrepreneurial expertise, reviewed all the applications to determine the top 20 finalists that will pitch their business plans at the Grow-NY Food and Ag Summit this 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 prizes and four $250,000 prizes.

“In our third year, Grow-NY has matured to become globally recognized, attracting best-in-class innovators and putting Upstate NY at the top of the list for food and ag startups worldwide. Each year Grow-NY breaks its own record for applications, and having more startups – and a more diverse group of startup founders – apply, means that we are attracting international entrepreneurs, female founders, and minority-owned businesses,” said Jenn Smith, Program Director, Grow-NY. “With this positive evolution, one element that continues to grow is the strength of our region’s agrifood innovation ecosystem, and the incredible support the program and our finalists get from our Grow-NY Partner Group. We are humbled and grateful to work with such dedicated experts from industry, government, and academia.”

The 20 selected finalists include:

Agri-Trak, Williamson, N.Y. – Agri-Trak is a farm management application suite, developed especially for the apple industry. The suite includes customizable modules that provide real-time information in easy-to-read widgets allowing farms to make daily data-informed decisions.

Asarasi, Katonah, N.Y. – Asarasi recovers the wasted 97% maple water by-products of the maple industry, providing a sustainable alternative to traditional bottled water and helping family farms double their profits on their existing maple crops.

Ascribe Bioscience, Ithaca, N.Y. – Ascribe Bioscience uses naturally occurring signaling molecules from the soil microbiome to produce a novel class of broad-spectrum, non-toxic biopesticides that prime the plants’ immune systems to enhance resistance to pathogens and increase crop yields.

Beemmunity, New York City, N.Y. – Beemmunity uses microparticle detoxification to provide solutions that protect and preserve pollinator species, changing the impacts of agrochemicals, preserving pollinator species for future generations.

Crystal Creek Organics, Rochester, N.Y. – Crystal Creek has a patented process that converts soluble phosphorus in dairy farm manure into by-product that can be sold to generate additional revenue. The remaining, phosphorus-free liquid is left on the farm, dramatically lowering the farm’s spreading costs.

DraughtLab, Webster, N.Y. – DraughtLab produces high-quality sensory tools for every level of sensory expertise, offering practical and approachable sensory analysis solutions that deliver real-world value to companies of any size.

EmGenisys, Houston, TX – Emgenisys is a state-of-art embryo health assessment platform that provides the most comprehensive embryo evaluation system, improving pregnancy outcomes of assisted reproductive technologies in livestock.

Every Body Eat, Chicago, Ill – Every Body Eat makes, markets, and sells delicious food that is free from the most common 14 allergens, corn, and sugar so that people can enjoy it, together, regardless of dietary restrictions or preferences.

Foodnerd, Buffalo, N.Y. – Foodnerd creates positively processed food with a purpose from plant-based foods. Their sprouting process maintains or increases increase the nutritional content found naturally in food, rather than degrading it.

Heat Inverse, Ithaca, N.Y. – Heat Inverse has developed a photonic metamaterial that offers cooling solutions with none of the energy input or waste heat associated with conventional cooling—it has the power to revolutionize cooling technologies in agriculture and food production.

Kyomei, Oxford, UK – Kyomei is making fundamental breakthroughs in animal protein production via plant-based delivery systems at scale, utilizing innovative chloroplast transformations to turn plant structures into animal proteins.

Lupii, Brooklyn, N.Y. – Lupii is unleashing the power of the small‑but‑mighty Lupini bean and disrupting the snack and meal bar category with its first snack-size line of flavors. Lupii Bars, the most unique, vegan protein bars on the block, offers one of the first whole bean based bars on the market.

Neupeak Robotics, Surrey, Canada – Neupeak’s fully autonomous berry harvesters are designed to work in all weather and lighting conditions, alongside human workers, to save farmers money by charging a fixed rate per pound of berries collected.

Nordetect, Copenhagen, Denmark – Nordetect provides rapid chemical analysis for nutrients in the Agrifood industry. The company’s first product is a lab-on-a-chip test for nutrients found in soil, water, and leaf samples, aimed at optimizing the amount of fertilizer used to cultivate crops.

Nutreat, Geneva, N.Y. – Nutreat is a line of low glycemic, healthy sweet snacks that leverage science-driven innovation, 100% natural, real, whole food ingredients, and a commitment to uncompromising flavor, and can be enjoyed on the go.

Persistent BioControl, Austin, TX – Persistent BioControl™ produces biocontrol nematodes that attack, kill, and multiply inside Western Corn Rootworm larvae before they damage crop yield. They are compatible with all CRW management programs, traited corn varieties, soil insecticides, and soil types.

Pheronym, Davis, CA – Pheronym uses pheromones to control the behavior and development of microscopic roundworms called nematodes, offering a non-toxic, sustainable, and effective path for farmers as they transition away from conventional pesticides.

ProAgni, Lavington, Australia – ProAgni ProTect is a revolutionary range of supplements and feeds for livestock that lowers methane emissions from sheep and cattle without the use of antibiotics, decreasing a producer’s environmental footprint without increasing costs.

Tropos Technologies, North Tonawanda, N.Y. – Tropos uses patented air control and state-of-the-art environmental controls to offer a superior climate management system, improving sustainability, operations, and food safety standards for greenhouses and indoor farms.

WeRadiate, Rochester, N.Y. – WeRadiate has a turnkey solution to improve soil quality using hardware, software, and data technology, offering a complete array of tools to create high-efficacy and high-quality compost end products at all composting sites.

All finalists will receive:

  • Dedicated mentorship from a hand-selected business advisor;
  • Additional pitch training to hone their live pitches for the judges;
  • Business development support and workshops to connect them to potential partners and opportunities;
  • Introduction to the region’s leaders and resources;
  • Networking introductions, business tours, and valuable appointments for finalist team representatives.

The Grow-NY Food and Ag Summit, scheduled for November 16th and 17th in Central New York, will be held in two formats simultaneously this year, both in-person and virtually. The in-person Summit event—where finalists will pitch their business ideas live in front of an audience and answer questions from a judging panel—will be held at the OnCenter in Syracuse. The event will align closely with the latest CDC’s recommended safety guidelines to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and the competition is prepared to make adjustments as needed. Registration is now available. To help ensure the safety of attendees and accommodate social distancing concerns, the Summit will feature a limited capacity of 500 attendees.


Judges will base final award decisions on the following five criteria:

  • The viability of the startup’s business model
  • The diversity, quality, and completeness of the startup team and their readiness to deliver
  • The value that the startup offers customers
  • The agrifood innovation that that the startup has invented
  • The opportunity creation potential that the startup can bring to the region

To learn more about the finalists and mentors, and to learn more and register for the Summit, visit grow-ny.com.

To learn more about the Cornell Center for Regional Economic Advancement, 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.



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