Locate Finger Lakes Business Journal

Empire State Development announces selected finalists for round four of $3 million Grow-NY Global Food and Agriculture Business Competition

20 Startups from Across the Globe will Compete to Win a Combined Total of $3 Million in Prize Money at Upcoming Summit Nov. 15-16

Empire State Development (ESD) and Cornell University’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement (CREA) today announced the 20 finalists selected to take part in year four of Grow-NY, a food and agriculture business competition focused on enhancing the emerging food, beverage, and agriculture innovation cluster in Central New York, the Finger Lakes, and the Southern Tier. CREA administers the competition which is funded through New York state’s Upstate Revitalization Initiative. The winner will be required to make a positive economic impact in the Grow-NY region, which is comprised of 22 counties located in Central NY, the Finger Lakes, and in the Southern Tier where there are vibrant farmlands, and urban centers, including Rochester, Syracuse, and Binghamton.

Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Hope Knight, said, “Round four of the Grow-NY business competition has once again attracted a group of exceptional startups and entrepreneurial talent from around the world. Through this agri-business focused competition, New York State continues its dedicated, focused efforts to support agriculture innovation that will create jobs and grow the Central New York, Finger Lakes, and Southern Tier economies.”

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball, said, “Congratulations to the Grow-NY Round 4 finalists.  These entrepreneurs are innovating the exciting new foods and agricultural products of tomorrow, which will not only grow the industry and address consumer demand in these areas, but that will also enhance environmental sustainability, a major goal for New York State as we work towards our aggressive agenda in tackling climate change. I look forward to the final awards being made this fall and seeing these cutting-edge products reach our marketplace.”

In all, 385 startups applied from 52 countries, including Singapore, Australia, and Sri Lanka. This year’s competition garnered vast global interest, and for the first time in competition history, international applications (225) exceeded the number of U.S.-based applications (160). Domestic teams showed strong interest as well, with 25 different states represented in the applicant pool, including 92 entries from New York, a number that accounts for 55% of U.S. applicants. Of the applications from New York state, 34% were from the Grow-NY region. 38% of applicants included a female founder and a record 75% included a founder from an underrepresented minority group.

A panel of 30 judges, reflecting a depth and breadth of agriculture, food production, and entrepreneurial expertise, reviewed all the applications to determine the top 20 finalists that 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 20 selected finalists include:

Botaniline, Buffalo, N.Y. – Botaniline creates ground proteins that are lower in salt, saturated fat, and calories by utilizing plant-based ingredients to replace some of the meat, producing flavorful, more sustainable meat products.

Craft Cannery, Bergen, N.Y. – Craft Cannery takes cherished recipes from your kitchen to the shelves of grocery stores, restaurants, farmers markets and beyond, specializing in the contract manufacturing of sauces, dressings, marinades, and more.

Dynamic Air Cooling (DAC)Elbląg, Poland – Dynamic Air Cooling (DAC) is an environmentally-friendly air conditioning and refrigeration technology that uses no synthetic HFC coolants and features no thermal emissions, bringing a breakthrough cooling technology to fight climate change.

EdenesqueKingston, N.Y. – Edenesque curates clean, simple, and delicious artisanal plant-based milks that foster health and nutrition, made with whole ingredients that support and strengthen bodies without any fillers or additives.

Forte Protein, Ithaca, N.Y. – Forte Protein uses a plant-based technology to produce a broad spectrum of meat, fish, and dairy proteins without the need for animals, eliminating the carbon footprint involved in animal agriculture.

Hago Energetics Benefit Corporation, Camarillo, Calif. – Hago Energetics traps methane from farm waste, converts it into hydrogen gas, and creates direct carbon dioxide emissions, resulting in not one, but two, sellable products.

Hempitecture, Sun Valley, Idaho – Hempitecture is on a mission to create healthy, energy-efficient building materials that positively impact people and the planet by capturing carbon dioxide and replenishing farmland. Its biobased insulation makes construction projects more sustainable, healthier, and higher performing.

Humatico, Warsaw, Poland – Humatico technology creates high quality organic fertilizer from any available organic raw materials, including agricultural waste, algae, sapropel, peat, and brown coal.

KEHO, New York, N.Y. – KEHO makes complex science deliciously digestible, curating savory snack bars that are keto-friendly and 100% plant-based. With no sugars, sweeteners, or artificial flavors or colors, KEHO packs up real food for real lives.

Labby, Cambridge, Mass. – Labby’s technology provides rapid, accurate, and affordable solutions for dairy farms, leveraging AI-enabled optical sensing for raw milk testing that delivers instant insights to your fingertips.

Mi Terro, Los Angeles, Calif. – Mi Terro is helping to protect the environment by upcycling agricultural waste and engineering it to replace plastic in the food, packaging, and fashion industries.

Norwhey Brewing, Ithaca, N.Y. – Norwhey transforms New York state’s yogurt byproducts into a delicious, Nordic twist on hard seltzer by responsibly capturing and fermenting excess whey from the production of strained yogurt and turning it into sustainability you can taste.

ProAgni, Lavington, Australia – ProAgni ProTect is a revolutionary range of supplements and feeds for livestock that lowers methane emissions from sheep and cattle without the use of antibiotics, decreasing a producer’s environmental footprint without increasing costs.

Seneca Farms Biochar, Odessa, N.Y. – Seneca Farms Biochar’s technology produces biochar, pyroligneous acid (wood vinegar), and activated carbon at scale, sequestering carbon, reducing dependency on chemical pesticides and fertilizers, and optimizing financial outcomes.

Sweet Pea Plant-Based Kitchen, Rochester, N.Y. – Sweet Pea is a plant-powered kitchen creating transformative paths to wellness, combining the benefits of its plant-centric food meal service and nutrition coaching to help people sustain a healthy life.

Tomgrow, Tel Aviv, Israel – Tomgrow provides a programmable growth medium that can be customized for specific crops and plants, enabling plants to access water and nutrients on demand and combatting the wastefulness and environmental impact of traditional growing.

UNNICO FOOD, Mamaroneck, N.Y. – UNNICO offers plant-based yogurts and creams that taste and feel like a yogurt, but are jam-packed with probiotics and fortified with fiber, creating a vegan, dairy-free treat that tastes as good as it is for you.

Vivid Machines, Toronto, Canada – Vivid X-Vision system captures the visible and chemical details of every plant across an entire crop from bud to harvest to manage growth, predict yield, and provide means for early diagnosis of pests, diseases, and nutrient deficiencies.

We Are The New FarmersBrooklyn, N.Y. – We Are The New Farmers brings the benefits of microalgae straight into smoothies with its fresh, frozen, farm-grown spirulina cubes that are packed with dense micronutrients and loaded with antioxidants.

Zalliant, Amsterdam, N.Y. – Zalliant’s loT and artificial intelligence technologies provide value and efficiency to farmers through improved decision making and management.

The accelerator program consists of a 10-week business development phase during which the 20 finalists receive:

  • Dedicated mentorship from a hand-selected business advisor
  • Introduction to the region’s leaders and resources
  • Networking introductions, business tours, and valuable appointments for finalist team representatives
  • Business development support and workshops to connect them to potential partners and opportunities
  • Additional pitch training to hone their live pitches for the judges

“For the fourth-consecutive year, Grow-NY broke its own record for applications, but what is most energizing is the composition of startups that applied to make their mark in the thriving entrepreneurship ecosystem in Upstate NY. The strength of our region’s agrifood system continues to grow, and this year’s finalists are pushing traditional boundaries, introducing technologies that increase growing efficiency, create novel foods, and address an array of pressing issues,” said Jenn Smith, Program Director, Grow-NY. “We are delighted to have several international finalists and are just as excited to watch the multiple home-grown teams compete. The support the startups will receive from our Grow-NY Partner Group is incredible, and we are thankful to work with such dedicated experts from the ag community, industry, state agencies, and academia.”

The accelerator culminates with a live pitch at the Grow-NY Food and Ag Summit, scheduled for Nov. 15 and 16, at the OnCenter in Syracuse. The Summit will once again be held in two formats simultaneously, in-person and virtually, with finalists pitching their business ideas live in front of an audience and answering questions from a judging panel. This year’s winners will be revealed via a virtual award ceremony on the morning of Nov. 17.

“The Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences community is inspired by the food and agriculture technology innovations that Grow-NY has drawn into upstate New York’s innovation ecosystem,” said Benjamin Z. Houlton, Ronald P. Lynch Dean. “Cornell CALS is ready to leverage our strengths in research and development to help this year’s cohort of startups fulfill their potential to improve the health, food, economy, and environment of our interconnected world, by developing their businesses right here in our region.”

“We are grateful for the vision Governor Hochul and Empire State Development have demonstrated through their ongoing support of the Grow-NY program,” said Mary Opperman, Cornell VP and Chief Human Resources Officer. “As this year’s group of competition finalists demonstrates, innovations in and around agriculture create meaningful opportunities to advance food systems, right here in our region and across the state. The advancements these companies offer have worldwide implications and help us continue to grow the economy in New York.”

To learn more about the finalists and mentors, and to learn more and register for the Summit, visit

To learn more about Cornell Center for Regional Economic Advancement (CREA) visit

Accelerating Finger Lakes Forward

Today’s announcement complements “Finger Lakes Forward,” the region’s comprehensive blueprint to generate robust economic growth and community development. The regionally designed plan focuses on investing in key industries including photonics, agriculture‎ and food production, and advanced manufacturing. Now, the region is accelerating Finger Lakes Forward with a $500 million State investment through the Upstate Revitalization Initiative. The State’s $500 million investment will incentivize private business to invest well over $2.5 billion – and the region’s plan, as submitted, projects up to 8,200 new jobs. More information is available here.

Accelerating CNY Rising

Today’s announcement complements “CNY Rising,” the region’s comprehensive blueprint to generate robust economic growth and community development. The regionally designed plan focuses on capitalizing on global market opportunities, strengthening entrepreneurship and creating an inclusive economy. Now, the region is accelerating CNY Rising with a $500 million State investment through the Upstate Revitalization Initiative. The State’s $500 million investment will incentivize private business to invest well over $2.5 billion – and the region’s plan, as submitted, projects up to 5,900 new jobs. More information is available here.

Accelerating Southern Tier Soaring

Today’s announcement complements “Southern Tier Soaring,” the region’s comprehensive blueprint to generate robust economic growth and community development. The regionally designed plan focuses on attracting a talented workforce, growing business and driving innovation. Now, the region is accelerating Southern Tier Soaring with a $500 million State investment through the Upstate Revitalization Initiative. The State’s $500 million investment will incentivize private business to invest well over $2.5 billion – and the region’s plan, as submitted, projects up to 10,200 new jobs. More information is available here.

About Empire State Development 

Empire State Development (ESD) is New York’s chief economic development agency. The mission of ESD is to promote a vigorous and growing economy, encourage the creation of new job and economic opportunities, increase revenues to the State and its municipalities, and achieve stable and diversified local economies. Through the use of loans, grants, tax credits and other forms of financial assistance, ESD strives to enhance private business investment and growth to spur job creation and support prosperous communities across New York State. ESD is also the primary administrative agency overseeing the state’s Regional Economic Development Councils and the marketing of “I LOVE NY,” the State’s iconic tourism brand. For more information on Regional Councils and Empire State Development, please visit and

« View all posts