Finalists announced for Grow-NY $3M global food and agriculture business competition

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$1 million grand prize and six other winners to be chosen among 20 finalists from across the world at Summit on Nov. 16-17.

Empire State Development (ESD) and Cornell University's Center for Regional Economic Advancement today announced the 20 finalists for year three of Grow-NY, a food innovation and agriculture technology business challenge focused on enhancing the emerging food, beverage and agriculture innovation cluster in Central New York, the Finger Lakes and the Southern Tier.

"Round three of the Grow-NY business competition has once again attracted a group of exceptional startups and entrepreneurial talent from around the world," said Empire State Development Chief Operating Officer and Executive Deputy Commissioner Kevin Younis. "Through this competition, New York State continues its dedicated, focused effort to support agriculture innovation that will create jobs and grow the Central New York, Finger Lakes and Southern Tier economies."

In all, 330 startups applied from 32 countries including Singapore, Israel and Switzerland. In the U.S., 23 states were represented, including 138 entries from New York. Forty-four percent of applicants included a female founder and 51% included a founder from an underrepresented minority group, which is a significant increase from last year's applicant pool. A panel of 30 independent 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:

  • Agri-Trak, Williamson, N.Y. - Agri-Trak 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, N.Y. - Asarasi recovers the wasted 97% maple water byproducts 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, N.Y. - Ascribe Bioscience uses naturally occurring signaling molecules from the soil microbiome to produce a novel class of broad-spectrum, nontoxic biopesticides that prime the plants' immune systems to enhance resistance to pathogens and increase crop yields.
  • Beemmunity, New York City, N.Y. - Beemmunity 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, N.Y. - Crystal Creek has a patented process that converts soluble phosphorus in dairy farm manure into byproduct 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, N.Y. - DraughtLab 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.
  • EmGenisys, Houston, TX - Emgenisys is a state-of-art embryo health assessment platform that provides the most comprehensive embryo evaluation system, improving pregnancy outcomes of assisted reproductive technologies in livestock.
  • Every Body Eat, Chicago, Ill - Every Body Eat makes, markets and sells delicious food that is free from the most common 14 allergens, corn and sugar so that people can enjoy it, together, regardless of dietary restrictions or preferences.
  • Foodnerd, Buffalo, N.Y. - Foodnerd 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, N.Y. - Heat Inverse 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.
  • Kyomei, Oxford, UK - Kyomei is making fundamental breakthroughs in animal protein production via plant-based delivery systems at scale, utilizing innovative chloroplast transformations to turn plant structures into animal proteins.
  • Lupii, Brooklyn, N.Y. - Lupii is 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, the most unique, vegan protein bars on the block, offers one of the first whole bean based bars on the market.
  • Neupeak Robotics, Surrey, Canada - Neupeak's fully autonomous berry harvesters are designed to work in all weather and lighting conditions, alongside human workers, to save farmers money by charging a fixed rate per pound of berries collected.
  • Nordetect, Copenhagen, Denmark - Nordetect provides rapid chemical analysis for nutrients in the Agrifood industry. The company's first product is a lab-on-a-chip test for nutrients found in soil, water, and leaf samples, aimed at optimizing the amount of fertilizer used to cultivate crops.
  • Nutreat, Geneva, N.Y. - Nutreat is 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.
  • Persistent BioControl, Austin, TX - Persistent BioControl™ produces biocontrol nematodes that attack, kill and multiply inside Western Corn Rootworm larvae before they damage crop yield. They are compatible with all CRW management programs, traited corn varieties, soil insecticides and soil types.
  • Pheronym, Davis, C.A. - Pheronym uses pheromones to control the behavior and development of microscopic roundworms called nematodes, offering a nontoxic, sustainable and effective path for farmers as they transition away from conventional pesticides.
  • 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.
  • Tropos Technologies, North Tonawanda, N.Y. - Tropos 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, N.Y. - WeRadiate has 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.

"In our third year, Grow-NY has matured to become globally recognized, attracting best-in-class innovators and putting Upstate NY at the top of the list for food and ag startups worldwide. Each year Grow-NY breaks its own record for applications and having more startups—and a more diverse group of startup founders—apply means that we are attracting international entrepreneurs, female founders and minority-owned businesses," said Jenn Smith, Program Director, Grow-NY. "With this positive evolution, one element that continues to grow is the strength of our region's agrifood innovation ecosystem, and the incredible support the program and our finalists get from our Grow-NY Partner Group. We are humbled and grateful to work with such dedicated experts from industry, government and academia."

All finalists will receive:

  • Dedicated mentorship from a hand-selected business advisor.
  • Additional pitch training to hone their live pitches for the judges.
  • Business development support and workshops to connect them to potential partners and opportunities.
  • Introduction to the region's leaders and resources.
  • Networking introductions, business tours and valuable appointments for finalist team representatives.

The Grow-NY Food and Ag Summit, scheduled for Nov. 16 and 17, will be held in two formats simultaneously this year, both in-person and virtually. The in-person Summit event—where finalists will pitch their business ideas live in front of an audience and answer questions from a judging panel—will be held at the OnCenter in Syracuse. The event will align closely with the latest CDC's recommended safety guidelines to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and the competition is prepared to make adjustments as needed.

Under current plans, finalists will be on-site for the pitch competition and attendees will have the opportunity to experience a two-day symposium featuring panel discussions on the biggest issues facing the food and agriculture industry. There will also be a Summit Showcase featuring organizations that support the thriving start-up community in New York State, focusing on the food and ag sectors. Admission to the Summit in Syracuse is $45 per person, $25 for students. Group discounts for school trips or community organizations are available, and no one will be turned away due to the inability to pay.  Both the pitch competition and panels will be broadcast live online for anyone interested in virtually attending, free of charge.

Registration is now available. To help ensure the safety of attendees and accommodate social distancing concerns, the Summit will feature a limited capacity of 500 attendees. As an added incentive, the first 100 guests that sign up will receive a free long-sleeve Grow-NY t-shirt.

"We've been able bring a robust competition to our finalists year after year, whether its in-person or virtual,  and that's something we are very grateful for," said Smith. "This year, we're excited to convene in Syracuse, as the city is central to New York's food and ag community, and attendees and finalists will get to experience the energy that comes from the live pitch competition. Last year's all-virtual summit was a success with participation from places including Ireland, Israel and Argentina—so we chose to stream it live again this year to provide flexibility for those that can't travel to Syracuse but still want to be a part of the event."

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 agrifood innovation that that the startup has invented. 
  • The job growth and opportunity potential that the startup can bring to the region. 

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.

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.

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

Source: Center for Regional Economic Advancement, Cornell University

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