Grow-NY finalists aim to benefit Upstate New Yorkby Enrico Villamaino

2021 marks the third year that Grow-NY will offer $3 million in prize money to seven food and agriculture startups from across the globe.

Founded in 2019, Grow-NY is a food innovation and agriculture technology business challenge. Administered by Cornell University’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement and funded by regional economic development councils in Central New York, the Finger Lakes and the Southern Tier, the initiative seeks to foster innovation in food, beverage and agricultural technologies. The competition is open to all startups that produce physical products, hardware or software technologies, services or processes that relate to or impact products that are derived from agriculture. To be eligible for the competition, an applicant must be a registered, formative stage business entity, such as a corporation or limited liability company, that meets at least two of the competition’s four criteria. The entrant must be less than seven years from its date of formal organization, and it must have its first product or service in the testing or pilot production stage. The firm must be in a status of pre-revenue or early revenue, and the business must have a leadership team working toward commercialization and profitability. Entrants from prior years’ competitions that did not win an award are eligible and encouraged to try again.

The winner of the grand prize will receive $1 million. Two second place finishers are awarded $500,000 apiece, and $250,000 will each go to the four companies in third place. The funds are not awarded in a lump sum but are instead divided into monthly installments. In addition to the financial reward, prize winners will also receive individually tailored mentorship, training, business development support and tax incentives.

According to Jenn Smith, Grow-NY’s program director, this year saw over 330 aspirants to the program. “About half of the applicants were from New York State, one quarter from 22 other U.S. states and the rest were international candidates,” she said. Regardless of where a contestant comes from, Smith emphasized that they must be committed to improving the local business climate, particularly in the food and agriculture sector. “All awardees have to establish an economic foothold in the Central New York, Finger Lakes or Southern Tier area. They can either do that by physically setting up a place of business in the area and directly engaging in the local business community, or by forming a business partnership with an existing local company, opening up new economic opportunities for them… What we’re looking at is regional impact. Does your technology or your product create opportunity in the Grow-NY region? Does it speak to the commodities within the region? Does it have the potential to create jobs here?”

The competition will be decided at the Grow-NY Summit, which will take place Nov. 16 and 17 at the Oncenter in Syracuse. After a series of themed panels and lectures, the symposium will see 20 finalists make a final pitch to a body of 30 independent judges on behalf of their products and services. Smith said that those wanting to observe the proceeding will be able to do so both in person and online.

The 20 finalists in the 2021 Grow-NY contest include EmGenisys (Houston, TX), Every Body Eat (Evanston, IL), Kyomei (Oxford, UK), Neupeak Robotics (British Columbia, Canada), Nordetect (Copenhagen, Denmark), Persistent BioControl (Austin, TX), Pheronym (Davis, CA) and ProAgni (Lavington, Australia), along with the New York-based finalists below:

  • Agri-Trak (Williamson) is a farm management application suite, developed especially for the apple industry. The suite includes customizable modules that provide real-time information in easy-to-read widgets allowing farms to make daily data-informed decisions.
  • Asarasi (Katonah), which recovers the wasted 97% maple water by-products of the maple industry, providing a sustainable alternative to traditional bottled water and helping family farms double their profits on their existing maple crops.
  • Ascribe Bioscience (Ithaca), which uses naturally occurring signaling molecules from the soil microbiome to produce a novel class of broad-spectrum, non-toxic biopesticides that prime plants’ immune systems to enhance resistance to pathogens and increase crop yields.
  • Beemunity (New York City), which uses microparticle detoxification to provide solutions that protect and preserve pollinator species, changing the impacts of agrochemicals, preserving pollinator species for future generations.
  • Crystal Creek Organics, (Rochester), which has a patented process that converts soluble phosphorus in dairy farm manure into by-product that can be sold to generate additional revenue. The remaining, phosphorus-free liquid is left on the farm, dramatically lowering the farm’s spreading costs.
  • DraughtLab (Webster), which produces high-quality sensory tools for every level of sensory expertise, offering practical and approachable sensory analysis solutions that deliver real-world value to companies of any size.
  • Foodnerd (Buffalo), which creates positively processed food with a purpose from plant-based foods. Their sprouting process maintains or increases increase the nutritional content found naturally in food, rather than degrading it.
  • Heat Inverse (Ithaca), which has developed a photonic metamaterial that offers cooling solutions with none of the energy input or waste heat associated with conventional cooling – it has the power to revolutionize cooling technologies in agriculture and food production.
  • Lupii (Brooklyn), unleashing the power of the small‑but‑mighty Lupini bean and disrupting the snack and meal bar category with its first snack-size line of flavors. Lupii Bars offers one of the first whole bean-based bars on the market.
  • Nutreat (Geneva), a line of low glycemic, healthy sweet snacks that leverage science-driven innovation, 100% natural, real, whole food ingredients, and a commitment to uncompromising flavor, and can be enjoyed on the go.
  • Tropos Technologies (North Tonawanda), which uses patented air control and state-of-the-art environmental controls to offer a superior climate management system, improving sustainability, operations and food safety standards for greenhouses and indoor farms.
  • WeRadiate (Rochester), offering a turnkey solution to improve soil quality using hardware, software and data technology, offering a complete array of tools to create high-efficacy and high-quality compost end products at all composting sites.

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