Grow-NY, one of the largest global food and agriculture business competitions, announced today that it will host its two-day Food & Ag Summit, which includes its highly anticipated pitch competition, completely virtually, on Tuesday, Nov. 17 and Wednesday, Nov. 18. The unprecedented competition, which is in its second year, focuses on strengthening the food and agriculture innovation cluster within the Central New York, Finger Lakes and Southern Tier regions of New York state. Shifting from its original in-person event due to pandemic-related safety concerns , the all-virtual Summit will now leverage leading edge technology to bring together its top 20 finalists, all high-growth startups, to pitch and answer questions in real time in front of a panel of judges for a chance to win a combined total of $3 million in prize money. Free registration for the Summit is now open on grow-ny.com; registration is also open for the awards ceremony which is scheduled for the following week on Monday, Nov. 23.
“COVID-19 has challenged all of us to stay on course towards our goals. New York state and our Partner Group have steadfastly supported us in continuing to move the Grow-NY program forward, with even greater urgency. We’ve taken it as an opportunity to practice our own innovation, and as a result, we were able to pivot from our traditional in-person Summit to create a dynamic virtual venue,” said Jenn Smith, Program Director for Grow-NY. “We’re thrilled that our finalists have the opportunity to share their stories and ambitions, and even with the new virtual format, there will be numerous ways for attendees to network, forge connections with other members of the community and truly immerse themselves in innovation through our panel discussions.”
This year, 264 startups and entrepreneurs applied for round one of the competition before being narrowed to the top 20 finalists. Since the finalist announcement this past September, these startups have worked closely with their assigned mentors to better understand how they can make the biggest impact in the Grow-NY region and prepare for their pitches. Each finalist will receive 10 minutes to present their business plans with the remaining 10 minutes set aside for questions from the panel of judges.
Tuesday’s startup pitches will feature businesses working in the consumer packaged goods, distribution, food safety, processing and packaging spaces. Wednesday’s startup pitches will be from businesses working in digital ag, farm operations, livestock health, soil and crop tech.
World-class researchers, experts and industry partners will also speak to the latest industry trends and innovations during the Summit in a series of engaging panel discussions scheduled throughout both days, including sessions on:
- Drafting a Roadmap for Emerging Crops
- Hemp’s Regulatory Landscape
- Mending our Fractured Food System
- Changing Climate, Changing Farms
- A Feast From Crumbs: Salvaging Food Waste
- Risks and Rewards: Launching an Innovative CPG
- Bending, Not Breaking: Food and Bev Startup Resilience and Adaptability
“Our Summit attracts a wide variety of attendees including startups, companies, investors, resource providers, researchers, entrepreneurs, farmers, and agricultural and STEM students that are really committed—and potentially invested—in the future of our region’s food and agriculture sectors,” said Smith. “Our Symposium’s lineup will directly speak to this audience and bring industry conversations that truly matter to the forefront. We’ll be discussing constraints experienced by growers and food processors, and exploring solutions to those challenges, and in doing so we aim to strengthen the connective tissue between all of the stakeholders in the Grow-NY community.”
Tune in to the action-packed award ceremony the following Monday, Nov. 23, at 4-5 p.m. EST to find out which finalists were selected by the panel of judges to win the $1 million top prize, two $500,000 prizes and four $250,000 prizes. CEO and Founder of Chobani Hamdi Ulukaya will provide the keynote speech for the ceremony and Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul will speak about the impact of the competition on New York state.
New this year: Grow-NY has also added an “Audience Choice” award for the startup voted by the public to have the most innovative and promising pitch. The public can vote at grow-ny.com and the winner receives $10,000 sponsored by Wegmans. The Martin Group will also be providing $5,000 of in-kind marketing services to both the Grand Prize winner and the winner of the Audience Choice award.
For more information on the virtual Food & Ag Summit, visit grow-ny.com to pre-register, view the schedule and learn more about the finalists. Admission to both the Summit and the awards ceremony is free and open to the public with registration sponsored by Farm Credit East. Additional information on the competition’s sponsorships and partners can be found on the Grow-NY website.
Empire State Development is funding the competition through its Upstate Revitalization Initiative connected with the three regions—CNY Rising, Finger Lakes Forward and Southern Tier Soaring—and Cornell University is administering the competition. Winners will be required to create a positive impact in the Grow-NY region, grow job opportunities, connect with local industry partners and contribute to a thriving Upstate economy.
About Empire State Development
Empire State Development (ESD) promotes a vigorous and growing state economy, encourages business investment and job creation, and supports diverse, prosperous local economies across New York State through the efficient use of loans, grants, tax credits, real estate development, marketing and other forms of assistance. To learn more about ESD, visit esd.ny.gov.
About the Cornell Center for Regional Economic Advancement
The Cornell Center for Regional Economic Advancement (CREA) supports economic impact in Upstate New York through entrepreneurship and innovation to help people advance ideas that will create jobs in all fields and enrich the area’s economic diversity. To learn more, visit crea.cornell.edu.