In the Community: From Empire State Development
The application window is now open for the 2022 Grow-NY food and agriculture competition.
Grow-NY, connects innovators and investors in the food, beverage and agriculture sectors locally and around the globe, has already resulted in economic growth and entrepreneurial opportunity in Upstate New York.
The Grow-NY region, a 22-county area spanning Central NY, the Finger Lakes and the Southern Tier, has already seen hundreds of new jobs and millions of dollars of follow-on investment as a result of the competition.
The program is in its 4th year and attracts high-growth food and agriculture startups to compete for $3 million in total prize money each year and supports 20 finalists through a business development phase connecting them with the resources. Governor Kathy Hochul included funding for three additional rounds of this impactful competition in her FY 2023 budget.
“This fourth round of Grow-NY will further build on the success of earlier competition winners, whose entrepreneurial ideas are fueling economic growth Upstate,” said Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Hope Knight. “These innovative companies have attracted significant investment and are seeding the ground for even more innovation, both throughout the Grow-NY region and around the world.”
Winners are required to commit to operating in at least one of the 22 Grow-NY counties for at least 12 months and must agree to a “pay-it-forward” provision in the form of an equity agreement.
Applications must be submitted by Friday, July 1. Up to 20 finalists will be assigned mentors and enter the business development phase, this august. All finalists will receive entrepreneurial support and valuable regional introductions, additional training to hone their live pitches and an expenses-paid, three-day business development trip to the region for up to two team members.
The selected finalists will present their business plans during the Grow-NY Summit, November 15-16, alongside a symposium of panel conversations and keynotes, a showcase of agencies, companies, research groups, and other organizations that serve startups working in food and ag, and a student stage where middle- and high school aged New Yorkers will pitch their ag- and food tech ideas.
“We are looking for food and ag innovators that operate at any point in the agrifood system that demonstrate a value to customers, an ability to grow quickly and sustainably and diversity within their founding team,“ said Grow-NY program director Jenn Smith.
One finalist will receive a top prize of $1 million; two others will be awarded $500,000 prizes, and four more will be given $250,000 prizes.
Funding for the program comes through Empire State Development from the Upstate Revitalization Initiative’s three regional entities, CNY Rising, Finger Lakes Forward and Southern Tier Soaring and is administered by Cornell’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement.
Ronald P. Lynch, Dean of the Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Benjamin Z. Houlton said Cornell is proud to support the Grow-NY competition. “By partnering across the public and private sectors, Grow-NY is critical to scaling new technologies and innovations needed to meet our state’s goals for more sustainable food systems that provide healthy, nutritious food to all,” he said.
The program is focused on drawing more diverse leaders to the region by reaching communities that have historically been left out of the innovation economy. In 2021, 51% of the 330 applicants included a founder from an underrepresented minority group, and 44% included a female founder.
Judges will base award decisions on the following five criteria:
- Viability of Commercialization and Business Model – the potential for the entrant to generate revenue and maintain a cost structure that allows for a competitive and sustainable business, demonstrate technological readiness or innovate to fulfill its value proposition;
- Team – Demonstration of a level of cohesion, completeness, diversity, and readiness within the team of founders, employees, and advisors; inclusion or plans for inclusion of employees and advisors from communities that have historically been excluded from the innovation economy, such as women and minorities;
- Customer Value – the degree to which the entrant is providing something for which customers are willing to pay, and addressing a substantial market;
- Food and Agriculture Innovation – the extent to which the entrant is pushing what’s considered state-of-the-art in the food and agriculture industries, and contributing to Upstate NY’s status as a global leader in innovation in these markets;
- Regional Job Creation – the potential for creating high-quality jobs in the Grow-NY footprint and relevance to the existing food and ag ecosystem; and
The Grow-NY region, which hosts over 40 percent of New York’s 33,438 farms, it is a 22-county region comprised of the Finger Lakes – Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Orleans, Ontario, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates; Central New York – Cayuga, Cortland, Madison, Onondaga and Oswego; and Southern Tier – Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Delaware, Schuyler, Steuben, Tioga and Tompkins.