ITHACA, N.Y. — Empire State Development (ESD) and Cornell University’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement (CREA) have announced the 20 finalists for year four of Grow-NY, a food and agriculture business competition focused on enhancing the emerging food, beverage, and agriculture innovation cluster in Central New York, the Finger Lakes, and the Southern Tier.
Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Hope Knight, said, “Round four of the Grow-NY business competition has once again attracted a group of exceptional startups and entrepreneurial talent from around the world. Through this agri-business focused competition, New York State continues its dedicated, focused efforts to support agriculture innovation that will create jobs and grow the Central New York, Finger Lakes, and Southern Tier economies.”
In all, 385 startups applied from 52 countries, including Singapore, Australia, and Sri Lanka. This year’s competition garnered vast global interest, and for the first time in competition history, international applications (225) exceeded the number of U.S.-based applications (160). Domestic teams showed strong interest as well, with 25 different states represented in the applicant pool, including 92 entries from New York, a number that accounts for 55% of U.S. applicants. Of the applications from New York state, 34% were from the Grow-NY region. 38% of applicants included a female founder and a record 75% included a founder from an underrepresented minority group.
A panel of 30 judges, reflecting a depth and breadth of agriculture, food production, and entrepreneurial expertise, reviewed all the applications to determine the top 20 finalists that will pitch their business plans at the Grow-NY Food and Ag Summit this 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:
- Botaniline, Buffalo, N.Y. – Botaniline creates ground proteins that are lower in salt, saturated fat, and calories by utilizing plant-based ingredients to replace some of the meat, producing flavorful, more sustainable meat products.
- Craft Cannery, Bergen, N.Y. – Craft Cannery takes cherished recipes from your kitchen to the shelves of grocery stores, restaurants, farmers markets and beyond, specializing in the contract manufacturing of sauces, dressings, marinades, and more.
- Dynamic Air Cooling (DAC), Elbląg, Poland– Dynamic Air Cooling (DAC) is an environmentally-friendly air conditioning and refrigeration technology that uses no synthetic HFC coolants and features no thermal emissions, bringing a breakthrough cooling technology to fight climate change.
- Edenesque, Kingston, N.Y. – Edenesque curates clean, simple, and delicious artisanal plant-based milks that foster health and nutrition, made with whole ingredients that support and strengthen bodies without any fillers or additives.
- Forte Protein, Trumansburg, N.Y. – Forte Protein uses a plant-based technology to produce a broad spectrum of meat, fish, and dairy proteins without the need for animals, eliminating the carbon footprint involved in animal agriculture.
- Hago Energetics Benefit Corporation, Camarillo, Calif. – Hago Energetics traps methane from farm waste, converts it into hydrogen gas, and creates direct carbon dioxide emissions, resulting in not one, but two, sellable products.
- Hempitecture, Ketchum, Idaho – Hempitecture is on a mission to create healthy, energy-efficient building materials that positively impact people and the planet by capturing carbon dioxide and replenishing farmland. Its biobased insulation makes construction projects more sustainable, healthier, and higher performing.
- Humatico, Mysłowice, Poland – Humati.co technology creates high quality organic fertilizer from any available organic raw materials, including agricultural waste, algae, sapropel, peat, and brown coal.
- KEHO, New York, N.Y. – 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.
- Labby, Cambridge, Mass. – Labby’s technology provides rapid, accurate, and affordable solutions for dairy farms, leveraging AI-enabled optical sensing for raw milk testing that delivers instant insights to your fingertips.
- Mi Terro, City of Industry, Calif. – Mi Terro is helping to protect the environment by upcycling agricultural waste and engineering it to replace plastic in the food, packaging, and fashion industries.
- Norwhey Brewing, Ithaca, N.Y. – Norwhey transforms New York state’s yogurt byproducts into a delicious, Nordic twist on hard seltzer by responsibly capturing and fermenting excess whey from the production of strained yogurt and turning it into sustainability you can taste.
- ProAgni, Lavington, Australia –ProAgni ProTect is a revolutionary range of supplements and feeds for livestock that lowers methane emissions from sheep and cattle without the use of antibiotics, decreasing a producer’s environmental footprint without increasing costs.
- Seneca Farms Biochar, Odessa, N.Y. – Seneca Farms Biochar’s technology produces biochar, pyroligneous acid (wood vinegar), and activated carbon at scale, sequestering carbon, reducing dependency on chemical pesticides and fertilizers, and optimizing financial outcomes.
- Sweet Pea Plant-Based Kitchen, Rochester, N.Y. – Sweet Pea is a plant-powered kitchen creating transformative paths to wellness, combining the benefits of its plant-centric food meal service and nutrition coaching to help people sustain a healthy life.
- Tomgrow, Tel Aviv, Israel – Tomgrow provides a programmable growth medium that can be customized for specific crops and plants, enabling plants to access water and nutrients on demand and combatting the wastefulness and environmental impact of traditional growing.
- UNNICO FOOD, Mamaroneck, N.Y. – UNNICO offers plant-based yogurts and creams that taste and feel like a yogurt, but are jam-packed with probiotics and fortified with fiber, creating a vegan, dairy-free treat that tastes as good as it is for you.
- Vivid Machines, Toronto, Canada – Vivid X-Vision system captures the visible and chemical details of every plant across an entire crop from bud to harvest to manage growth, predict yield, and provide means for early diagnosis of pests, diseases, and nutrient deficiencies.
- 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.
- Zalliant, Amsterdam, N.Y. – Zalliant’s loT and artificial intelligence technologies provide value and efficiency to farmers through improved decision making and management.
“For the fourth-consecutive year, Grow-NY broke its own record for applications, but what is most energizing is the composition of startups that applied to make their mark in the thriving entrepreneurship ecosystem in Upstate NY. The strength of our region’s agrifood system continues to grow, and this year’s finalists are pushing traditional boundaries, introducing technologies that increase growing efficiency, create novel foods, and address an array of pressing issues,” said Jenn Smith, Program Director, Grow-NY. “We are delighted to have several international finalists, and are just as excited to watch the multiple home-grown teams compete. The support the startups will receive from our Grow-NY Partner Group is incredible, and we are thankful to work with such dedicated experts from the ag community, industry, state agencies, and academia.”
The accelerator program consists of a 10-week business development phase during which the 20 finalists receive:
- Dedicated mentorship from a hand-selected business advisor
- Introduction to the region’s leaders and resources
- Networking introductions, business tours, and valuable appointments for finalist team representatives
- Business development support and workshops to connect them to potential partners and opportunities
- Additional pitch training to hone their live pitches for the judges
The accelerator culminates with a live pitch at the Grow-NY Food and Ag Summit, scheduled for Nov. 15 and 16, at the OnCenter in Syracuse. The Summit will once again 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. This year’s winners will be revealed via a virtual award ceremony on the morning of Nov. 17.
Judges will base final award decisions on the following five criteria:
- The viability of the startup’s business model
- The diversity, quality, and completeness of the startup team and their readiness to deliver
- The value that the startup offers customers
- The agrifoodinnovation that that the startup has invented
- The job growth and opportunity potential that the startup can bring to the region
In addition to hearing pitches from the finalists, this year’s Summit attendees will experience a two-day symposium that draws inspiration from Cornell’s 2030 Project, an initiative that seeks to bring together cutting-edge research across all disciplines and adapt it into practical, real-world climate solutions. The symposium will spotlight the spaces where farms and food, innovation, and sustainability overlap. Panel discussions will offer practical advice to startups while tackling the biggest issues facing our planet, highlighting and advancing critical work that is being done to provide vital solutions to pressing challenges in the agrifood system and beyond. There will also be a Startup Showcase featuring organizations that support the thriving innovation ecosystem in New York State, focusing on the food and ag sectors.
“The Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences community is inspired by the food and agriculture technology innovations that Grow-NY has drawn into upstate New York’s innovation ecosystem,” said Benjamin Z. Houlton, Ronald P. Lynch Dean. “Cornell CALS is ready to leverage our strengths in research and development to help this year’s cohort of startups fulfill their potential to improve the health, food, economy, and environment of our interconnected world, by developing their businesses right here in our region.
Admission to the Summit in Syracuse is $50 per person, $25 for students and includes virtual access as well. Group discounts for school trips or community organizations are available, and no one will be turned away due to the inability to pay. The full pitch competition, symposium panels, and award ceremony will be broadcast live online for anyone interested in virtually attending, free of charge. Registration is now available.
Cornell University’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement is administering the competition and Empire State Development is providing funding for the Grow-NY competition through its Upstate Revitalization Initiative connected with the three regions – Central New York Rising, Finger Lakes Forward and Southern Tier Soaring.
“We are grateful for the vision Governor Hochul and Empire State Development have demonstrated through their ongoing support of the Grow-NY program,” said Mary Opperman, Cornell VP and Chief Human Resources Officer. “As this year’s group of competition finalists demonstrates, innovations in and around agriculture create meaningful opportunities to advance food systems, right here in our region and across the state. The advancements these companies offer have worldwide implications and help us continue to grow the economy in New York.”
The winner will be required to make a positive economic impact in the Grow-NY region which features counties within Central NY, the Finger Lakes, and the Southern Tier of New York State where there are vibrant farmlands as well as several major urban centers, including Rochester, Syracuse, Ithaca, Geneva, Corning, and Binghamton. The winning business will help contribute to job growth, connect with local industry partners and contribute to a thriving economy.
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball, said, “Congratulations to the Grow-NY Round 4 finalists. These entrepreneurs are innovating the exciting new foods and agricultural products of tomorrow, which will not only grow the industry and address consumer demand in these areas, but that will also enhance environmental sustainability, a major goal for New York State as we work towards our aggressive agenda in tackling climate change. I look forward to the final awards being made this fall and seeing these cutting-edge products reach our marketplace.”
To learn more about the finalists and mentors, and to learn more and register for the Summit, visit grow-ny.com.
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 https://esd.ny.gov.
About the Cornell Center for Regional Economic Advancement
The Cornell Center for Regional Economic Advancement (CREA) supports economic growth 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, visit https://crea.cornell.edu.
–Empire State Development
Cornell Center for Regional Economic Advancement