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Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced Wednesday that the 20 finalists selected to participate in round two 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 Southern Tier regions. Finalists were chosen from a field of over 260 startups that applied to be part of the initiative. The Grow-NY region includes a broad 22-county swath that includes Upstate New York's farming community as well as several major urban centers, including Rochester, Syracuse, Ithaca and Binghamton.  Halomine and Norwhey are the two Ithaca firms in the finals.

Cornell University's Center for Regional Economic Advancement is administering the competition and New York State is providing funding for the Grow-NY competition through the Governor's Upstate Revitalization Initiative connected with the three regions - CNY Rising, Finger Lakes Forward and Southern Tier Soaring.

"New York State is committed to supporting our world-renowned food and agricultural industry," Cuomo said. "Once again, the Grow-NY competition has attracted a group of diverse, innovative entrepreneurs who are ready to focus on finding new, innovative ways to further transform this critical industry. It is through targeted efforts like Grow-NY that we will continue to bolster these regional economies, fostering statewide growth as we work to build back better."

In all, 264 startups applied from 27 countries including Argentina, Germany and Israel. In the U.S., 26 states were represented, including 98 entries from New York. 29 percent of applicants included a female founder and 32 percent included a founder from an underrepresented minority group. The 20 selected finalists 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 winner will be required to make a positive economic impact in the Grow-NY region by spurring job growth and connecting with local industry partners.

The 20 selected finalists include:
  • AgTrace, Florianopolis, Brazil - Provides a traceability solution that incorporates farming information and captures, stores and processes data while connecting stakeholders
  • ARPAC, Porto Alegro, Brazil - Creates and integrates heavy-lifting drones that apply pesticides in a fast and localized manner, with uniformity and precision
  • Asarasi, Katonah, NY - Recovers the wasted 97% maple water by-products of the maple industry, providing a sustainable alternative to traditional bottled water
  • brytlife foods, Kerhonkson, NY— Crafts sustainably sourced vegan artisanal cheese and yogurt with next level nutrition from 100% plants
  • Candidus, Hull, GA - Develops cost-effective supplemental lighting strategies and control systems for commercial greenhouse operations
  • Crystal Creek Organics, Rochester NY - Converts soluble phosphorous in liquid manure into a non-soluble, revenue-generating, solid by-product
  • FreshSource, Giza, Egypt - Empowers smallholder farmers by connecting them to fair, modern and transparent markets
  • Halomine, Ithaca, NY — Develops anti-microbial products to ensure the safety of our food supply
  • InnerPlant, Davis, CA - Genetically transforms plants into living sensors to increase yield and reduce agrochemical waste
  • Leep Foods, Rochester, NY - Grows premium organic mushrooms using regenerative soil methods on nutrient-enriched American hardwoods for consumers and restaurants
  • Nordetect, Copenhagen, Denmark - Provides rapid chemical analysis for nutrients in the AgriFood industry
  • Norwhey, Ithaca, NY - Transforms New York state's yogurt whey into delicious and sustainable alcoholic beverages
  • PittMoss, Ambridge, PA - Produces a next generation growing media that is proven to grow bigger, stronger plants than most peat-based mixes
  • PureSpace, Busan, South Korea - Extends shelf-life and improves food safety by decomposing ethylene gas, airborne mold, and viruses effectively and efficiently
  • Re-Nuble, New York, NY — Transforms food waste into industrial-grade, water soluble, organic hydroponic nutrients for soilless farming
  •, New York, NY - Provides a platform to access transparent and reliable information on the origin, journey, and quality of one's food
  • Simply Good Jars, Philadelphia, PA — Expands access to sustainable, restaurant quality meals in a convenient, pre-packaged format
  • SoFresh, Pleasant Prairie, WI - Manufactures a unique packaging material with an organic vapor to extend the shelf life of fresh bread
  • Soos Technology, Kidron, Israel - Mitigates male-chick culling by transforming male chickens into egg-laying females
  • Zetifi, New South Wales, Australia - Enables farmers to access fast and reliable connectivity across the entirety of their property

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;
  • Networking introductions, business tours, and valuable appointments for finalist team representatives.

The Grow-NY Food and Ag Summit, which was held in Rochester attracted more than 900 attendees in 2019. To align with safety guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the event will be held virtually this year on November 17th and 18th. Finalists will still have the opportunity to pitch their business plans and answer questions from a live panel of judges. Attendees can also experience a symposium featuring a series of panels discussing the biggest issues facing the food and agriculture industry. Registration is now available, and the event is free and open to the public.

Judges will base final 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; and
  • Team - the quality and completeness of the team and its readiness to deliver.

Empire State Development Acting Commissioner and President & CEO-Designate Eric Gertler said, "Round Two of the Grow-NY business competition has attracted quality startups and entrepreneurial talent from around the world to New York State—further dedicating efforts to deliver on agriculture innovation that will create jobs and grow the Finger Lakes, Central New York and Southern Tier economies."

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