New York State and Cornell University Launch Multi-Million Dollar Global Food and Agriculture Business Competition within Upstate NY Innovation Cluster

Grow-NY > 2019  > New York State and Cornell University Launch Multi-Million Dollar Global Food and Agriculture Business Competition within Upstate NY Innovation Cluster

New York State and Cornell University Launch Multi-Million Dollar Global Food and Agriculture Business Competition within Upstate NY Innovation Cluster

Rochester, NY – May 31, 2019 – New York State and Cornell University today announced a transformative competition and forthcoming investment in Upstate New York’s food and agriculture economy by launching Grow-NY, a food innovation and agriculture technology
business challenge.

Grow-NY is an unprecedented business competition focused on enhancing the emerging food and agriculture innovation cluster currently present in the Finger Lakes, Central New York, and the Southern Tier regions. It will attract high-growth food and agriculture startups from around the world and engage them in the region’s rapidly expanding startup and innovation ecosystem. Entrants will compete to win up to $1 million each year during the program’s initial three-year run, with finalists pitching their ideas and business plans in November as they compete for the grand prize.

Empire State Development is funding the competition through its Upstate Revitalization Initiative, and Cornell University’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement will administer it. Winners will be required to operate in the Grow-NY region, grow jobs, connect with local industry partners and contribute to a thriving Upstate economy.

“New York’s agricultural industry is one of the best in world, and the Grow-NY competition will attract innovative start-ups focused on this industry to put down roots in Upstate New York,” Governor Cuomo said. “By bringing in new companies to find new ways to transform our state’s food and agricultural industry, we are continuing to bolster these regional economies and foster growth in this critical industry statewide.”

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul helped share the news today with the official launch of the program. Applications are open for the start of its year-one application period, which runs through July 15.

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul

“New York has among the best food products in the world, and the agricultural industry is an important part of our upstate economy,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who made today’s announcement. “Continuing to build on our investments in agriculture, we’ve launched the Grow NY competition to fund and support startups in the industry. We are committed to fostering innovative ideas, boosting job growth, and promoting our farms and agricultural products that will further strengthen the economy.”

The Grow-NY region includes a broad swath of Upstate New York’s most vibrant farmlands as well as several major urban centers, including Rochester, Syracuse, Ithaca and Binghamton.

In all, it includes 22 counties, broken down into three regions, as follows:

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

The competition is anticipated to produce up to 20 finalists who will receive:

  • Dedicated mentorship from a hand-selected business advisor;
  • Additional pitch training to hone their live pitches for the judges;
  • An expenses-paid, three-day business development trip to the Grow-NY region for up to two finalists per team; and
  • Networking introductions, business tours with potential partners, and valuable appointments for finalist team representatives.

Finalists will pitch their ideas and business plans at the Grow-NY Food and Ag Summit on Nov. 12 and 13 at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center.

In each of the next three years, Grow-NY will award a total of $3 million in prize money to seven winners, all payable in stages, based on business milestones. This includes a $1 million top prize, two $500,000 prizes, and four $250,000 in prizes. Tax incentives will also be included.

“A panel of judges will review all of the applications, and all finalists will pitch their business ideas and plans to a live audience and judges during the final competition phase,” explained Tom Schryver, executive director of Cornell University’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement. “Each pitch will be followed by a brief question-and-answer period. After all pitches are complete, the judges will announce the winners.”

Tom Schryver, Executive Director of Cornell’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement

Judges will base award decisions on the following five criteria:

  • Viability of Commercialization and Business Model – the potential for the entrant to generate revenue and maintain a cost structure that allows for a competitive and sustainable business, demonstrate technological readiness, or innovate to fulfill its value proposition;
  • Customer Value – the degree to which the entrant is providing something for which customers are willing to pay, and addressing a substantial market;
  • Food and Agriculture Innovation – the extent to which the entrant is pushing what’s considered state-of-the-art in the food and agriculture industries, and contributing to Upstate NY’s status as a global leader in innovation in these markets;
  • Regional Job Creation – the potential for creating high-quality jobs in the Grow-NY footprint; and
  • Team – the quality and completeness of the team and its readiness to deliver.

Many of the region’s top food and agriculture leaders were part of today’s announcement, including Wegmans Food Markets, Constellation Brands and the Farm Bureau of New York, along with LiDestri Food and Drink, whose widely acclaimed Innovation Center served as the host site for the event.“It is a great opportunity for our organizations to come together to support an innovative approach on reaching agricultural entrepreneurs. The farm community has long relied on Cornell’s cutting-edge research and business development to support what we do, and this region’s startups will benefit from this unique competition. Innovation will drive the future of agriculture, and today’s event is a welcomed effort to capitalize on that potential,” said David Fisher, New York Farm Bureau President

To learn more about the competition’s details, including timeline, prize details, eligibility and residency requirements, visit

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

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. We help people advance ideas that will create jobs in all fields in our region, to enrich the area’s economic diversity. To learn more,

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