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

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: https://www.grow-ny.com/competition-details/#requirements

What are the eligibility requirements for entry?

Applicants must meet two of the four Grow-NY Food & Agriculture Business Competition definition for their product or service and these four criteria to be eligible to enter:

  • 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


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 prizes, all payable in increments based on personalized milestones.

All finalists (up to 20 companies) will receive dedicated mentorship from a hand-selected business advisor familiar with the competition regions, additional pitch training to hone your live pitch for the judges, and a personalized, complimentary,  three-day business development trip to the three regions. This includes networking introductions, business tours with potential partners, and valuable appointments. After the competition, all prize winners will also receive ongoing business support while they maintain a business presence in the three regions.


How do I enter the competition?

Applications are currently closed, and applications for the 2020 year will open March 31, 2020.

Companies requiring special accommodations to complete the application should contact the Grow-NY Competition Managers at [email protected] or call 607-882-2400.


When can I enter the competition?

Applications are open from March 31 – July 15, 2020.


What criteria will judges use to score my application?

Judges score each the application and the final pitch by these five criteria (In no order):

  1. 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
  2. Customer Value:Provision of significant value for customers for which they are willing to pay; addressing a substantial market
  3. 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
  4. Regional Job Creation:Potential for creation of high-quality jobs in the Grow-NY region
  5. Team: Quality and completeness of the team and their readiness to deliver


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

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

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 any of the above criteria, the new entity must be pursuing a substantially new technology or business model.

The “food and agriculture” space includes companies at every level 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 of mechanisms or tools to add value to emerging and existing 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


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 an economic impact within one of the three regions and be able to travel to the US to attend a three-day business development trip (not mandatory) and a three-day pitch competition (mandatory). Non-US companies will need to be a legal entity in the country where they are based.


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

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


Over what period of time does the competition take place?

Please refer to the timeline on the Competition Timeline on the Competition Details page.


Are there location requirements in order to be a winner?

Yes. 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, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming, and Yates counties)

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


This requirement may be met in the following ways:


  • Establishing the 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 applicant is currently operating in New York state, the applicant may fulfill these obligations by committing to quantified job creation targets


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

Yes. As long as you can meet the requirements of Grow-NY for mandatory attendance at the pitch competition and participation with your mentor.


May my business apply if it has received institutional, angel, or other financing?

Yes, we are happy to see your startup supported by investors.


What types of companies are excluded from the competition?

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, 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. For more information about eligibility, please read the Terms and Conditions.


Can I edit a submitted application?

Yes. You can make edits and re-submit up until July 15, 2020, at 5:00 p.m. EST.

Instructions to make edits to your online application:

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


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

If you are not selected as a finalist, you will receive an email regarding that status. If you would like additional feedback about why your application did not advance, you can contact us at [email protected]. We encourage you to make improvements on your application to reapply next year.


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

Yes. Up to two members of each finalist company will have travel, hotel, and per diem expenses covered with a travel stipend to conduct a business development trip to the three regions. A travel stipend will also cover travel to attend the pitch competition. Your hotel stay and meals will be included for each day of this event.


How many rounds of judging are there?

Two. A panel of judges will review all of the submitted applications and select up to 20 finalists. Those finalists will pitch their business ideas and plans to a live audience and panel of judges during the day 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 recommend the winners, taking into account input from the previous judging round and winners will be announced.


Does Grow-NY take equity in winners?

Winners will be required to enter into a definitive investment agreement in the form of a Warrant Agreement or Simple Agreement for Future Equity (SAFE) with the University (the “Investment Agreement”), the forms of which are attached to the Award Agreement, for an amount up to 3% of the fully-diluted capitalization of the Recipient for Awards for an Award of $1 million and up to 2% of the fully-diluted capitalization of the Recipient for Awards up to $500,000 and $250,000. The Administrator will reinvest any future proceeds derived from the Pay It Forward Investment consistent with the general purposes of the Competition. The applicant may choose whether the Investment Agreement will be a Warrant Agreement or SAFE.


What kind of time commitment is required?

Finalists will work remotely with their mentor for up to eight weeks and are highly encouraged to visit the region on an expense paid three-day business trip. Finalists are required to attend the pitch competition November 17 -18.


What are the final pitch parameters?

The final pitch will be ten minutes for the pitch and ten minutes for Q&A.


Where will the competition take place?

The pitch competition will take place November 17-28, 2020, in Syracuse, NY. The competition will be part of the Grow-NY Food and Ag Summit.


Why are you asking for my tax number? 

We reference tax numbers to confirm that you have established tax identification.


More about submitting a video:

Please upload your video or send a direct URL from any video service (YouTube, Vimeo, etc) to your online application.

Video specifics:

  • Submit one video that is up to two minutes in length
  • This is our chance to learn more about your company and innovation
  • Feel free to shoot this on a cell phone, edit in iMovie, or submit a video that already exists

Have additional questions?

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

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