Q&A with Grow-NY Mentor Tom Seymour

Tom Seymour headshot.

Q&A with Grow-NY Mentor Tom Seymour

As we await the announcement of the Grow-NY Year 5 finalists in August, our 20 mentors are gearing up to guide their teams through the Business Development phase of the competition.  We sat down with new Grow-NY mentor Tom Seymour to learn more about his background and experience in the food and ag entrepreneurship space. 

As a Business Development Specialist at Bison Bag Company with experience in sustainability and packing solutions, Seymour works to create products that have a reduced impact on the environment. He serves as the Executive Chairperson for the Institute of Packaging Professionals National Board of Directors and is the President of the Associated New York State Food Processors. With an enthusiasm for entrepreneurship and local businesses, as well as experience in flexible packaging, food safety, co-packing, co-manufacturing, equipment, processing, and ingredients, Seymour will be a great resource to the Grow-NY finalists. 

Question: How do you think food and ag startups benefit from launching within the Grow-NY region?  

Food and ag startups benefit from launching within the Grow NY region, as they have access to a unique set of resources. The highlight in these resources is the network of people with a diverse set of experience from farm to fork in food supply chains. It is a very collaborative community with a focus on innovation and excellence. I don’t believe there is another place in the world with people that are so interested and engaged in helping each other, the economy, and our community. 

Question: Why did you choose to work in the food and ag industry?  

Since my first job on Zuber’s farm bailing hay, I have always been involved in food or agriculture in some way. Part of my family comes from a farming community in Sicily. When they came to this country, they bought a farm and continued to grow their own food. This instilled a passion for farming, gardening, cooking, and interfacing with food at a young age. I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to have worked in almost every part of the food supply chain, from hospitality to grocery to farming to food processing, manufacturing, and packaging. My dad was a key in helping me to transition from hospitality into food manufacturing and packaging, as that is where he spent his career. This path is often overlooked, but it’s one of the most rewarding, interesting, and enjoyable careers that you can be involved with. 

Question: What should food and ag startups keep in mind as they begin to grow?  

Always begin with the end in mind. This is critical in examining the entire supply chain to ensure that you understand what infrastructure is available to support the growth of your business, where competition lies, and what opportunities are there for growth and innovation. In today’s world, we move at an extremely fast pace and speed to market is often the focus. Stepping back and taking time to review strategic approaches can be critical in a company’s overall success story. 

Question: What are you most excited about for mentoring a Grow-NY finalist this year?  

I am excited to help other people make connections within the Grow-NY region, as well as within my vast network, to accelerate their growth. I am eager to provide solutions that can make a significant difference and impact in our community and economy. This will foster growth and opportunity for generations to come and leave an incredible legacy of the people putting in the work to grow our food ecosystem in New York state.  

Question: As a Business Development Specialist with a passion for sustainability, how do you think food and ag startups can work towards being more sustainable?  

Sustainability is a complex topic with many challenges but also fantastic opportunities to make a positive impact on our environment. Ensuring that we are looking at sustainability from a scientific standpoint and using good tools like life cycle analysis to drive decision making are two ways to move the needle. It is important to take a broad view and capture sustainability statements trapped within our supply chains, taking an approach of first harvesting the low hanging fruit. It is important that we focus on educating and informing the public, key decision makers, industry professionals, politicians, influencers, and children to build a better future based on scientific data and best practices. 

We are thankful to have Tom as a mentor! The 2023 Grow-NY finalists will be announced August 23. 

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