Our most commonly asked questions about the Grow-NY Food & Agriculture Competition

How do I enter the competition?

Applications for Grow-NY 2024 are closed.

What benefits are there to entering the competition?

Grow-NY will award $3 million in prize money to seven finalists as follows: one grand prize of $1 million, two $500,000 prizes, and four $250,000 awards, as staged payments based on personalized milestones.  

Finalists (up to 20 companies) will receive dedicated mentorship from a hand-selected mentor familiar with the competition regions, additional pitch training to hone your live pitch for the judges, and a complimentary, 3-day business development trip to the Grow-NY region. Mentors have expertise in early-stage business development, pitching, and presenting your plan for growth in a compelling way to the judges.  After the competition, all prize winners will receive ongoing marketing and mentoring support for the duration of the award agreement while maintaining a business presence in the Grow-NY region.  

Over what period does the competition take place?

This round opens with the application phase beginning in March 2024, and concludes with the award ceremony in November. For details, please refer to the competition timeline.

Can I apply if my business is not from within the Grow-NY region?

Yes! Regardless of where your business is headquartered, you can apply for Grow-NY. Details about our regional impact requirements can be seen here.

What are the eligibility requirements for entry?

Your company needs to be a legal entity in a structure that can issue equity securities such as membership interests in an LLC or shares of stock. We will verify your business registration and type of structure at the time you apply. 

Your business must address, operate in, or benefit the food and agriculture field. A full definition of the scope of the food and agriculture field can be found here.  Note that companies working in the hemp industry will need to meet federal and New York State laws to be eligible. 

Does my company need to be a US legal entity to apply to the competition?

No. International companies are welcome to apply. To advance in the competition, teams need to have plans for economic impact within the Grow-NY region. Non-US companies will need to be a legal entity in the country where they are based.  

What types of business structures are eligible to apply?

At the time that they apply, applicants must be registered, formative-stage business entities that can enter into the Investment Agreement, such as a corporation or limited liability company (LLC), because award recipients will enter into an agreement to grant equity to Cornell University as a condition of receiving the award.  Sole proprietorships, non-profits, and general partnerships are not eligible. Grow-NY is designed for early-stage companies.  Read full eligibility requirements.

What types of companies are ineligible to apply?

The following businesses are not eligible for the competition: sole proprietorships, non-profits, partnerships, and other business structures that cannot legally enter into investment agreements. Also, 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, or entertainment-related establishments.   

For this purpose, “retail business” means a business 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 buy-outs, roll-ups, real estate syndications, tax shelters, and franchise-based outlets.

Should my business be at a certain stage of development to apply?

The Grow-NY competition is for startups with scalable potential addressing, operating in, or benefitting the regional food and agriculture ecosystem. See competition details for more information.

Is my company too mature?

If the prize money could advance your sales, team, or reach the next significant milestone, then you could be at an early enough stage to apply. There is no cap on revenue either from sales or investment. Email [email protected] to set up a meeting to discuss this further. 

Is my company too early in its business development to meet Grow-NY eligibility?

If you have a registered business (LLC or corporation) and a product or service close to commercial readiness (prototype, small-scale model, pilot, or beta version) or are currently available in the market, and you meet other eligibility requirements, you should apply. You do not need to have sales or revenue to apply. Email [email protected] if you wish to set up a meeting to discuss this further. 

Are there location requirements to receive a cash prize?

Yes. Awardees must locate or conduct business in the Grow-NY region for at least 12 months. The Grow-NY region is comprised of a 22-county area in the western part of New York State and includes:   

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

This requirement can be met by agreeing to one of following:  

  • Establishing the principal place of business in the Grow-NY region, identifying its primary headquarters as its address in the region, and having its key officers reside in New York State, within commuting distance to this location 
  • Establishing its primary manufacturing facility within the Grow-NY region 
  • Establishing its primary research and development facility within the Grow-NY region  
  • Making capital investments in property, plant, and equipment in the regions that are substantially greater than the amount of its award under Grow-NY 


Are there any fees for applying to and entering the competition?

No. There are no application fees or costs to take part in the business development phase or final events. Travel and lodging expenses for up to two members are covered to attend the three-day business development trip and 3-4 days around the pitch competition. 

What criteria will judges use to score my application?

Judges score the application and the final pitch by these six criteria: 

  1. Team: Demonstration of a level of cohesion, completeness, readiness within, and diversity and inclusion amongst the founders, employees, and advisors of the business will allow the team to deliver on its potential.
  2. 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 for the applicant’s technology or innovation to fulfill its needed value proposition. 
  3. Customer Value: Provision of significant value for customers for which they are willing to pay; addressing a substantial market. 
  4. Growth Potential: Ability to generate significant growth, as measured and assessed by employment and revenue growth and the potential for returns and liquidity for equity holders.
  5. 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. 
  6. Grow-NY Regional Job Creation: Potential for creating high-quality jobs in the Grow-NY Region and relevance to the existing food and ag ecosystem.

How many rounds of judging are there?

Two. A rigorous panel of judges scores qualified applications that meet all eligibility requirements. This intensive scoring round pares the pool down to our top 20 finalists. Finalists then enter the business development phase and prepare to pitch at the Summit in November 2024 to a panel of final judges, who choose seven winners. 

Can I edit a submitted application?

Yes. You can make edits and re-submit up until May 15, 2024 at 5:00 p.m. ET.  

 Instructions to make edits through Skild 

  • Log into your account in Skild 
  • Click “Unsubmitany time before the application deadline 
  • Make your edits 
  • Save and preview your application, then click “Submit.” You will receive a new submission confirmation email 

Is the video upload in my application optional?

Yes. We encourage applicants to include a video to show your team or your product or service in more detail. Videos can be up to two minutes in length and do not have to be professionally produced. 

Will I get feedback on my application if my company is not selected for entry?

You will receive an email regarding your status in September with an offer for feedback. We encourage applicants to request feedback at that time. 

Will Grow-NY cover any personal expenses associated with participating in the competition?

Grow-NY will cover travel expenses that include driving or flying costs, lodging, and meals for up to two members from each finalist company for the business development trip and the Summit.  

What kind of time commitment is required?

Finalists work remotely with their mentor over the business development phase, which spans approximately 10 weeks from late August through early November. The finalist determines the timing and frequency of work with their mentor. The weekly workload varies but includes setting up meetings with regional business contacts, updating your application and financials, and developing your plan for the award funds to include in your pitch. We highly encourage finalists to visit the Grow-NY region over this period to deepen and expand their connections by conducting an expense-paid three-day business trip. Lastly, finalists are required to attend the Summit, including a day of orientation and the two-day pitch competition in November 2024.  

What are the final pitch parameters?

The final pitch will be a ten-minute pitch with ten-minutes for Q&A from the judges. 

Where will the competition take place?

Our current plan is to hold the pitch competition in Ithaca, NY.  

Does Grow-NY take equity in winners?

Yes. Winners will be required to enter into an investment agreement as a Warrant or a Simple Agreement for Future Equity (SAFE) with Cornell University. The Warrant agreement assigns 3% for the $1 million dollar prize and 2% for the $500k and $250k prizes. Future proceeds derived from the investment will be reinvested into future rounds of the competition. 

Will Cornell University own any current or future IP?

No, neither Grow-NY nor Cornell University will own any current or future IP as a result of winning the Grow-NY competition. Winners do enter into an equity agreement held by Cornell.  

How have other winners met Prize Requirements?

Winners have met the requirement to operate in the region through a multitude of ways, including regional production, manufacturing, suppliers and partnerships, and substantial R&D. 

May I compete in Grow-NY while competing in another competition?

Yes. As long as you can engage weekly with your mentor, fulfill mandatory business development activities, and participate fully in the Summit, you can compete from anywhere in the world, regardless of other competition commitments. 

How can I learn more?

Have additional questions?

Contact us and we’ll be happy to answer them!

Contact Us