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Grow-NY: A Call for Innovation

On November 14th and 15th, Insights Director Mike Mostransky attended The Grow-NY Food and Ag Summit, a competition for small businesses in the food and agriculture industry to pitch for prizes amounting to a total of $3 million split between 7 winners. It is a competition to inspire innovation in food and ag tech. Since the annual competition began in 2019, the winners have created hundreds of new jobs in the area and attracted over $100 million in additional investor activity. The have also launched innovations in farm operations, food production and distribution, food science, food packaging, and more.

The Competition

The competition, sponsored by Empire State Development and Cornell University, is an annual contest designed to bring companies leading the way for growth and innovation to the Grow NY region (Central NY, Finger Lakes, and the Southern Tier). Winners of the prize are required to either move their HQ to the Grow NY region or provide substantial job creation and economic growth in the area. This year, over 300 companies applied for the competition with 20 being selected as finalists. Over the months of September to November, finalists were paired with a hand selected mentor, given additional pitch training ahead of the two day event, as well as an expenses paid 3 day business development trip to the region. 

The Conference

The agenda was full of all 20 finalists pitches to the panel of 7 judges, but also contained symposiums, panels, and even a series of pitches from high school students. There was also an Ecosystem Expo, an area filled with both the finalists and external companies and colleges. This allowed attendees the chance to get more information about each of the finalists, as well as plenty of networking for all. Even the food was on theme with all of it being locally grown and sourced. 

Outside of the event, the local chapter of the National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) hosted a speakeasy happy hour for the finalist and attendees alike to inspire comradery and collaboration. 

The Winners

All of the finalists are companies to watch as they grow and extend their reach – it took a lot to even be selected. But there must be winners! The winner of the top $1 million prize was Hypercell Technologies from Peachtree City, Georgia, a company providing rapid point-of-care diagnostics which ensures early identification and management of biological contaminants within the food chain. The two $500,000 winners were Crover from Edinburgh, UK and SomaDetect from Ontario, Canada. The four $250,000 winners were Cattle Scan from Toronto, Canada, Clean Label Solutions from Ithaca, New York, Mycologic from Kennesaw, Georgia, and Mush Foods from Poughkeepsie, New York.

Outside of the official winners, audience members voted for the Wegmans Audience Choice Award. The 2023 winner was Big Yield Growers, a company that turns abandoned buildings into vertical farms and hires many employees with disabilities to work them. They won due to their hard work and great benefit to the local community, big and small.

The agriculture industry is a very niche one, with its own set of terminology and knowledge. It can be hard to keep up with everything you need, especially when forging ahead into a new area of ag. Keep on top of it with our comprehensive guide full of business categories and jargon, The Ag Researcher’s Almanac.

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