A few weeks ago I had the pleasure to speak with Jenn Smith, Program Director for Grow-NY. This organization is leading a very exciting competition to bring next generation food and agriculture innovation to the upstate NY region.  Please spread the word.

Calling All Food and Agriculture Entrepreneurs!

Grow-NY is a competition for startups with growth potential in food and agriculture. This includes:  physical products, hardware or software technologies, food, fuels, fibers, raw materials, and processes or systems. The startup must operate in the Grow-NY region for at least 12 months.

Deadline for submissions is July 15.  Finalists will get help in the form of mentorship, pitch training and a 3-day business development trip to the region to network with potential partners.

$3MM Dollar Ag-Tech Competition – $1MM Top Prize

2019 winners included a wild and wonderful range of ideas:

  • Real Eats, a healthy meal delivery service – $1,000,000
  • Dropcopter, automated pollination of orchard crops using unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) – $500,000
  • Tiliter, software that uses AI and machine learning to automatically identify products (this is a Red Delicious apple, not a Pink Lady apple) – $500,000
  • Capro-X, a system that turns Greek yogurt whey into bio-oil – $250,000
  • Combplex, laser technology that eliminates mites that can devastate honeybee hives – $250,000
  • The Perfect Granola, a food company that helps those in need and empowers the underserved – $250,000
  • Whole Healthy Food, a natural way to reduce your body’s carbohydrate/calorie intake without changing your diet – $250,000

Continuing to Build on Unique Local Strengths

Source: The History Center

I not only went to Cornell twice, but I was born in Ithaca NY.  So I have many happy memories of visiting my grandparents there as a child.  For most of these halcyon years the Ithaca area was thriving, with companies like Smith Corona, National Cash Register, and Ithaca Gun.  But when these companies left or went out of business in the 70’s and ‘80’s, they took a large chunk of the local economy with them.

So it was extremely heartening to discover how enterprising and resilient this area actually has been over the years.

This fascinating history of Tompkins County’s entrepreneurial roots from the History Center speaks to the full range of companies that started and flourished here over the years.  Flour mills, confectioners, woolen mills, pottery works, iron bridges, iron works, calendar clocks, tobacco and cigar manufacturers, glass works, organs, bicycle chains, guns, typewriters, egg incubators, sauerkraut, silent films, pocketbooks, turbine components, cash registers, Moog synthesizers, high precision measurement tools, beer, and chocolates.

The region has always had wonderful growing conditions (the reward for its terrible winters). It also offers excellent water sources and hardworking people.  And because only Cornell University has both a top 10 agriculture program and a top 10 computer and information science program this university is uniquely able to stimulate research and innovation.  The combination is fertile, shall we say?

Grow-NY funding is provided by Empire State Development through its Upstate Revitalization Initiative. The competition will be administered by Cornell’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement.

With the Grow-NY competition now in its second year, I’m looking forward to seeing what this partnership will accomplish.




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