Empire State Development (ESD) today announced that the application window for the 2020 Grow-NY business competition is now open and is accepting submissions. Grow-NY, an unprecedented business competition, is in the second year of its three-year initiative and focuses on enhancing the emerging food and agriculture innovation cluster currently present in Central New York, the Finger Lakes and the Southern Tier regions of New York state. The transformative competition attracts high-growth food and agriculture startups from around the world and across the state to the Grow-NY region where they compete for a combined total of $3 million in prize money. Applications will be accepted through July 15, 2020. From the applications submitted, up to 20 finalists will be selected. Empire State Development is funding the competition through its Upstate Revitalization Initiative connected with the three regions— CNY Rising, Finger Lakes Forward and Southern Tier Soaring. Winners will be required to create a positive impact in the Grow-NY region by growing job opportunities, connecting with local industry partners and contributing to a thriving Upstate economy.
The agricultural economy in New York continues to grow with increased investment in our farms and local products," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, Chair of the Statewide Regional Economic Development Councils. "The first round of the Grow-NY Competition was a great success, and we are excited to launch the second round and see the potential entrepreneurs have to make the industry even stronger. These companies are developing ideas and plans to revolutionize the industry by transforming sustainability and improving the health and well-being of New Yorkers. We are committed to helping these innovative companies grow and thrive in New York State."
Empire State Development Acting Commissioner and President & CEO-designate Eric Gertler said, “In this unprecedented time, it is more important than ever to continue the programs that leverage New York State’s great assets to grow our economy. The Grow-NY competition is attracting startup innovation that will support job creation and the further development of our state’s food, beverage and agriculture industries.”
The selected finalists will receive dedicated mentorship from a hand-selected business advisor; marketing promotion and publicity support for their startup; an expenses-paid, three-day business development trip to the Grow-NY region for up to two finalists per team; and introductions to potential investors among other things. The competition is administered by Cornell University through its Center for Regional Economic Advancement.
Kathryn J. Boor Dean of Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences said, “The Grow-NY program helps Cornell achieve its land grant mission by leveraging the abundant natural, commercial, and academic resources in our region to attract innovations in food and agriculture that help our community grow, make, move, and sell food more sustainably and with greater efficiency. This becomes even more vital as we look for ways to recover from the economic effects of COVID-19. We’ve already seen results from the year one winners that fulfil on the promise of the program, and we’re looking forward to more, diverse, high-growth potential applicants in year two.”
Beginning in August 2020, selected teams will enter into a mentoring and business development phase that will run from September to November. Finalists will pitch their ideas and business plans at the Grow-NY Food and Ag Summit, a public symposium and industry forum, on November 17 and 18 at a soon to be announced location in Syracuse, NY. One team will be awarded the top prize of $1 million; two $500,000 prizes and four $250,000 prizes will also be awarded.
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;
- 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;
- Team – the quality and completeness of the team and its readiness to deliver.
The competition winners have a non-residential requirement to operate in Central New York, the Finger Lakes or Southern Tier regions for at least one year and will have to agree to participate in an equity share program in which a portion of their profits will be returned back to the program to support future work in food and agriculture innovation within the region.
The Grow-NY region includes a broad swath of Upstate New York’s most vibrant farmlands as well as several major urban centers, including Rochester, Syracuse, Ithaca and Binghamton.
In all, 22 counties are included, broken down into three regions, as follows:
- Central New York – Cayuga, Cortland, Madison, Onondaga and Oswego
- Finger Lakes – Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Orleans, Ontario, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates
- Southern Tier – Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Delaware, Schuyler, Steuben, Tioga and Tompkins
Richard Ball, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets said, “From farming to food production, New York is an innovative, world-class leader in agriculture with a vast potential to draw new, high-growth businesses in the industry. Now, more than ever, we need the agricultural community and the resilience of the industry to help move New York forward. The Grow-NY competition has already proven itself to be an effective strategy for attracting talent and technology to the state and we look forward to another successful round.”
In 2019, the inaugural year of the Grow-NY competition, 17 finalists pitched their business plans to a live audience and panel of judges during the Summit held at the Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center. The event attracted over 900 attendees and featured more than 75 food and agricultural exhibitors along with enriching panel sessions tackling some of the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the industry today. Last year’s winners included Dropcopter (Syracuse, NY), Tiliter (Munchen, Germany), Capro-X (Ithaca, NY), Combplex (Ithaca, NY), The Perfect Granola (Victor, NY) and Whole Healthy Food (Ithaca, NY). Real Eats America (Geneva, NY) took home the $1 million grand prize.
“Last year, farmers, makers, industry leaders, local agencies, service providers, and educational institutions came together to ensure that in addition to the winners getting prize money and support, all the finalist startup teams had access to the resources they need to grow their businesses within New York state. Entrepreneurs in this program receive a unique set of tools and supports that are not found in other programs,” said Jenn Smith, Program Director of Grow-NY, Cornell University’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement. “We’re already seeing the positive impact of last year’s competition and Summit and are looking forward to seeing what year two will bring.”
Central New York Regional Economic Development Council is chaired by Randy Wolken, President & CEO of the Manufacturers Association of Central New York and Deborah Stanley, President of the State University of New York at Oswego said, "New York State continues to experience unprecedented growth in the agriculture and food industries and we are really looking forward to serving as host for this year’s exciting the Grow-NY Food and Ag Summit in November. This competition represents yet another exciting investment in our community that will further bolster regional job growth and further support our agricultural base throughout Central New York ensuring the region continues to rise."
Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Co-Chair Bob Duffy, President and CEO, Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce said, " The regional council is proud to support round two of this innovative competition that is focused on growing the state's agricultural and food industries. The REDC investment in Governor Cuomo's Grow-NY competition is working to connect local industry partners with the cutting-edge ideas of these teams of entrepreneurs which will further support our multi-pronged approach laid out in the Finger Lakes Forward Upstate Revitalization Initiative that is working to create a thriving regional economy.'
Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council Co-Chair Judy McKinney Cherry, Executive Director, Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development (SCOPED) said, "New York's agriculture industry is one of the most prestigious in the nation, and this initiative with its investment is paramount to the regions' continued economic success. The Grow-NY competition enables innovative and competitive businesses and will further bolster our efforts to boost the regional economy helping the Southern Tier to soar."
To learn more about the Grow-NY competition, click here.