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Empire State Development Announces Finalists for Round Five of $3 Million Grow-NY Global Food and Agriculture Business Competition

20 Startups from Across the Globe will Compete to Win a Combined Total of $3 Million in Prize Money at Upcoming Summit Nov. 14-15

Competition is Funded Through Upstate Revitalization Initiatives - Finger Lakes Forward, CNY Rising and Southern Tier Soaring - Regional Comprehensive Strategies to Revitalize Communities and Grow the Economy

Empire State Development (ESD) and Cornell University’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement (CREA) today announced the 20 finalists selected to take part in year five of Grow-NY, a food and agriculture business competition focused on enhancing the emerging food, beverage, and agriculture innovation cluster in Upstate New York.  The Competition is funded through New York state’s Upstate Revitalization Initiative and administered by CREA. Winning companies will be required to make a positive economic impact in the Grow-NY region, which is comprised of 22 counties located in Central NY, the Finger Lakes, and the Southern Tier regions.

Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Hope Knight, said, "The innovative Grow-NY business competition has once again attracted a group of exceptional startups and entrepreneurial talent from around the world. Grow-NY's agribusiness focus demonstrates New York State's continued dedication to supporting agriculture advancements that will create jobs and grow the Central New York, Finger Lakes and Southern Tier economies."

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, "For five years, the Grow-NY competition has showcased the strength and diversity of New York State’s agriculture and food businesses. The program has consistently helped enhance our agricultural economy, attracting exciting, cutting-edge companies that are creating innovative new agricultural technologies and career paths while supporting New York farmers. I congratulate not only the finalists, but all the startups and entrepreneurs who participated in the competition and look forward to seeing all that they will go on to do.”

In total, 323 startups applied from 49 countries, including Canada, the UK, and Italy. Domestic teams also showed strong interest, with 32 states represented in the applicant pool, including 81 entries from New York. 42% of applicants include a female founder, and 61% include a founder from an underrepresented minority group. 

A panel of 30 judges, reflecting a depth and breadth of regional expertise, knowledge of the region’s agriculture andfood production communities, and entrepreneurial experience, reviewed all the applications to determine the top 20 finalists that will pitch their business plans at the Grow-NY Food and Ag Summit in Binghamton in November. Grow-NY will award a total of $3 million in prize money to seven winners. This includes a $1 million top prize, two $500,000 prizes and four $250,000 prizes.

The 20 selected finalists include:

  • Agriwater, Champaign, Ill. – Agriwater uses electrolysis to precipitate contaminants from on-farm manure  liquid, resulting in the elimination of odor, toxins, and GHGs from wastewater,  maintaining environmental compliance, creating an additional water source, and  providing recurring revenue streams from the sale of carbon credits.
  • Blue Cove Fish LLC, New York City –  Blue Cove Fish is a low-volume craft seafood cannery that partners with local  and sustainable suppliers of seafood, therefore contributing to the development  of local aquaculture and food systems, while manufacturing canned seafood  products with artisanal techniques and climate-smart packaging.
  • Cattle Scan, Toronto, Canada –  Cattle Scan’s cattle monitoring bolus allows dairy farmers to facilitate real-time  monitoring of individual cattle, improving overall herd health, increasing  production efficiency, and helping advance business sustainability and  operational excellence.
  • Clean Label Solution LLC, Ithaca, N.Y. – Clean Label Solution has proprietary technology that improves protein and fat  digestibility and reduces CO2 emissions and energy consumption in the  production of soy-based animal feeds for livestock such as dairy cattle, poultry,  deer, and fish farms.
  • Crover, Edinburgh, United Kingdom – Crover is on a mission to help grain storage operators reduce losses and  maintain optimum storage conditions, efficiently and remotely monitoring and  maintaining the quality of grain bulks through its “grain swimming” robotic  technology.
  • FaunaTech, Bangalore, India – Fauna is the first smartphone-connected, hand-held diagnostic platform to measure important biomarkers in meat, poultry, and gains, leading to the early detection of critical herd diseases, reducing antibiotic usage, and monitoring food qaulity at the farm gate.
  • FoodReady Inc., Chicago – FoodReady combines the power of software automation with expert food safety  consulting, ensuring clients are audit and inspection ready, eliminating the need  to manually manage documents, and increasing efficiency in operations,  certifications, and growing your business.
  • FoodNerd, Buffalo, N.Y. – FoodNerd creates positively processed plant-based food with a purpose. Their  sprouting process maintains and increases the nutritional content found  naturally in food, rather than degrading it.
  • Grape.ag, Cupertino, Calif. – Grape.ag gives plants a voice with its sensors and communication devices, allowing for the unique care of each plant in a vineyard and providing valuable atmospheric and soil information that enables vintners to visualize hyper-local conditions in real-time, find trends, and make better decisions.
  • GR8PE by Stil-Bène, Geneva, N.Y. – Stilbene transforms grape pomace, the skins and seeds left over after pressing  grapes, into a powdered dietary supplement designed to improve digestive  health.
  • HempWood, Murray, Ky. – Fibonacci’s HempWood Organic Flooring is an engineered hardwood flooring  that is sustainable, healthy, durable, and made in America using a plant-based, no  added formaldehyde adhesive, which emits no VOCs, is renewable and carbon negative, and water and scratch resistant.
  • Hypercell Technologies, Peachtree Corners, Ga. – Hypercell Technologies provides rapid point-of-care diagnostics for the food  chain, ensuring early identification and management of biological contaminants  from production to transformation with increased speed and accuracy.
  • KEHO, New York City – KEHO makes complex science deliciously digestible, curating savory snack bars  that are keto-friendly and 100% plant based. With no sugars, sweeteners, or  artificial flavors or colors, KEHO packs up real food for real lives.
  • LeafSpec LLC, West Lafayette, Ind. – LeafSpec is an accurate, affordable, and portable hyperspectral crop leaf imager  that provides measurements of a plant’s physiological features such as leaf  moisture content, chlorophyll content, nitrogen content, pathogen and insect diseases, and stresses from chemical sprays without damage to the plant.
  • Mush Foods, Poughkeepsie, N.Y. – Mush Foods harnesses the power and intelligence of mushrooms with its edible  mushroom mycelium, creating a groundbreaking, sustainable, animal-free protein  for the food and beverage industry.
  • MycoLogic, Kennesaw, Ga. – MycoLogic is a comprehensive solution for starting or expanding your specialty  mushroom cultivation business. They provide hardware and software for semi autonomous cultivation of specialty mushrooms, as well as biological support  and consultation.
  • SomaDetect Inc., Thornhill, Ontario – SomaDetect’s cutting-edge sensor and software system provides farmers with  the information they need to make the best milk possible, offering dairy  producers automatic and reliable milk-based data directly from their milking line  to streamline day-to-day operations of dairy farms.
  • TAINR, Los Angeles – TAINR modernizes the grocery store’s outdated bulk aisle with a smart refill  kiosk that moves inventory efficiently, reduces restocking times, and eliminates  product losses and single-use plastic packaging waste.
  • We Are The New Farmers, Brooklyn, N.Y. – We Are The New Farmers brings the benefits of microalgae straight into  smoothies with its fresh, frozen, farm-grown spirulina cubes that are packed with  dense micronutrients and loaded with antioxidants.
  • Wisely, Inc., Wilmington, N.C. – Wisely has developed a smart food storage system that reduces waste by  allowing users the ability to track the time and conditions in which their  perishables are stored. The system includes a Wisely Smart Sensor Disc  integrated with Wi-Fi connectivity to give the user detailed and personalized  insights through the Wisely Mobile Companion App.

The 10-week business development phase is an accelerator through which the 20 finalists receive:

  • Dedicated mentorship from a business advisor selected by our program team for their subject matter expertise and presence in the region.
  • Introduction to the region’s leaders and resources to connect them to potential partnerships and other strategic opportunities
  • Site visits, business tours, and industrial-and economic development agency introductions for finalist team representatives
  • Business development support and workshops helping them fine tune their regional plans
  • Pitch training to hone their live presentation skills for the Grow-NY judges and other potential sources of capital

We saw the Grow-NY effect in action with this year’s applications. The successes of our portfolio of winning companies attracted participation from startups innovation throughout the agrifood supply chain, across the globe, addressing main street economic health, the climate crisis, and how we feed our growing population. We are thrilled to welcome the 20 startups selected to participate in this year’s accelerator,” said Jenn Smith, Program Director, Grow-NY. The accelerator culminates with a live pitch at the Grow-NY Food and Ag Summit, scheduled for Nov. 14 and 15, at the Holiday Inn Downtownin Binghamton. The Summit will be held in two formats simultaneously, in-person and virtually, with finalists pitching their business ideas live in front of an audience and answering questions from a judging panel. The event also includes a food and agriculture symposium and ecosystem expo. This year’s winners will be revealed in alive  awards presentation at the conclusion of the summit.

“It is equal parts inspiring and exciting to see Grow-NY’s business competition gaining global recognition in its fifth year,” said Benjamin Houlton, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “Cornell CALS is proud to leverage our research and development strengths in support of this year’s cohort of startups, as they tackle the most complex challenges of our time—working to improve our world’s health, food, economy, and environment, while simultaneously bolstering New York’s innovation ecosystem.”

Registration for the summit is now open. To learn more about the finalists, mentors, and register for the summit, visit: grow-ny.com.

To learn more about the finalists and mentors, and to learn more and register for the Summit, visit grow-ny.com.

To learn more about Cornell Center for Regional Economic Advancement (CREA) visit https://crea.cornell.edu.

Accelerating Finger Lakes Forward 

Today’s announcement complements “Finger Lakes Forward,” the region’s comprehensive strategy to generate robust economic growth and community development. The regionally designed plan focuses on investing in key industries including photonics, agriculture‎ and food production, and advanced manufacturing. More information is available here.

Accelerating CNY Rising 

Today's announcement complements “CNY Rising,” the region’s comprehensive strategy to generate robust economic growth and community development. The regionally designed plan focuses on capitalizing on global market opportunities, strengthening entrepreneurship and creating an inclusive economy. More information is available here.


Accelerating Southern Tier Soaring 

Today's announcement complements “Southern Tier Soaring,” the region’s comprehensive strategy to generate robust economic growth and community development. The regionally designed plan focuses on attracting a talented workforce, growing business and driving innovation. More information is available here.

About Empire State Development 

Empire State Development (ESD) is New York’s chief economic development agency. The mission of ESD is to promote a vigorous and growing economy, encourage the creation of new job and economic opportunities, increase revenues to the State and its municipalities, and achieve stable and diversified local economies. Through the use of loans, grants, tax credits and other forms of financial assistance, ESD strives to enhance private business investment and growth to spur job creation and support prosperous communities across New York State. ESD is also the primary administrative agency overseeing the state’s Regional Economic Development Councils and the marketing of "I LOVE NY," the State’s iconic tourism brand. For more information on Regional Councils and Empire State Development, please visit www.regionalcouncils.ny.gov and www.esd.ny.gov.


Shari Voorhees-Vincent | [email protected] | (585) 399-7055

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