Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and its Center for Regional Economic Advancement, in partnership with the New York State government, are launching a food and agriculture business competition — Grow-NY — with the goal of bringing innovative startups to upstate New York food and agricultural industries.
Seven winners will be selected annually, with four $250,000 prizes, two $500,000 prizes, and a top prize of $1 million. The winners will operate their businesses in the Grow-NY region, create jobs for upstate workers, and collaborate with local partners in the industry.
The competition is accepting applications from startups around the world to plant their roots in upstate New York’s emerging food and agricultural innovation industry. Empire State Development, a state economic development program, will fund Grow-NY through its Upstate Revitalization Initiative, while CREA will administer the competition.
Winning companies will receive special benefits such as mentoring, networking activities, pitch training and an all-expenses-paid business trip to the Grow-NY region, which is comprised of the 22 counties in Central New York, the Finger Lakes region and the Southern Tier.
The first set of 20 finalists will be selected in August 2019, and the winners will be selected in early November at the Ag Summit. The Summit will consist of a symposium, exposition and the final pitch competition, where the finalists will deliver a 10-minute pitch to a live audience and a panel of judges.
According to the official press release, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo hopes the Grow-NY initiative will “bolster [upstate] economies and foster growth in this critical industry statewide.”
The project idea for Grow-NY was born about two years ago, Brian Bauer, competitions director for CREA, told The Sun. Grow-NY plans to take advantage of the “rapidly-growing startup ecosystem” in the region, Bauer said.
As Bauer explained, the Grow-NY region is an environment with tremendous potential for research and innovation — fostered by Cornell’s billion-dollar research and development budget, its proximity to urban centers like New York City and Philadelphia and lower costs of living and manufacturing than those of other business hotspots on the East Coast.
Another resource for competition finalists is the New York State Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture at Cornell AgriTech, which was created by CREA and CALS to catalyze business development in the food and agriculture industries.
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul announced the launch of the program in a press conference on May 31, expressing commitment to “fostering innovative ideas, boosting job growth, and promoting our farms and agricultural products” such as dairy products, apples, grapes and wine.
Bauer said that the long-term goals of the competition are to build the food and agriculture ecosystem in the Grow-NY regions and to establish the area as “the place to be” for innovative businesses in food and agriculture.
Applications for Grow-NY opened May 31 and will close on July 15 for the 2019 competition cycle.