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Governor Hochul announces round four winner of the Grow-NY Food and Agriculture Business Competition

$3 Million in Prize Money Awarded to Eight Startups After Two-Day In-Person and Virtual Pitch Competition in Syracuse

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced that ProAgni of Lavington, Australia, has been named the $1 million grand prize winner of the Grow-NY business competition, a food and agriculture startup challenge focused on enhancing the emerging food, beverage, and agriculture innovation cluster in Central New York, the Finger Lakes, and the Southern Tier. Now in its fourth year, the program once again attracted exceptional startups and entrepreneurial talent from around the globe to compete in its business development accelerator and two-day pitch competition at the Grow-NY Summit.  ProAgni was one of eight finalists to take home prize money. The winning teams must commit to operating in the Central New York, Finger Lakes, or Southern Tier regions for at least one year, while providing Grow-NY with a small equity investment stake in their entity. Funding for the competition, which is administered by Cornell University’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement, is provided through the state’s Upstate Revitalization Initiative. 

Grow-NY Finalists

“Congratulations to all of the forward-thinking entrepreneurs that took part in the fourth round of the Grow-NY competition,” Governor Hochul said. “This competition not only helps these companies continue to innovate, but it further supports New York State’s regional economies by drawing even more worldwide attention to our globally renowned food and agriculture industry. As New York continues to remain on the cutting edge, I look forward to all future endeavors that today’s winners will undertake throughout New York State.” 

ProAgni’s 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. 

ProAgni CEO and Co-Founder Lachlan Campbell said, “We are honored to join the incredible roster of Grow-NY winners, and grateful to New York state, Grow-NY, and the Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture for their support. We’re excited to expand our mission to revolutionize supplements and feeds for livestock that lower methane emissions into Upstate New York and the prize money will allow us to make an even greater impact. We’ve had an amazing experience throughout the program, from the guidance and connections our mentor Brad Goulthrope provided to the regional partners we were able to meet, to our competitors whose cutting-edge work and pitches were truly inspiring.”  

In all, 390 startups applied from 52 countries, including Singapore, Australia, and Sri Lanka. In the U.S., 25 states were represented, including 92 entries from New York. 38% of applicants included a female founder and a record 75% included a founder from an underrepresented minority group. The 20 finalists received dedicated mentorship from hand-selected regional business advisors leading up to the competition. Those selected as winners will now immediately get to work executing their business plans in New York state, leveraging the connections made and regional knowledge gained from the competition. 

More than 1,2000 people registered for the fourth annual Grow-NY Summit. The 20 finalists gave highly-anticipated business pitches to a panel of six judges reflecting a depth and breadth of agriculture, food production, and venture development expertise, who listened to each pitch and asked probing questions, before deliberating to determine the top winners. The Summit culminated with the presentation of awards, where Trish Thomas, CEO and co-founder of 2021 Grow-NY $1 million grand prize winner Every Body Eat, announced the four $250,000 winners and Commissioner Richard Ball revealed the two $500,000 recipients, as well as the $1 million award winner. 

Department of Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “Grow-NY has become one of New York’s finest annual traditions, shining a spotlight on the many diverse, innovative, exciting agricultural and food businesses across the State. I thank Governor Hochul for her continued support of the Grow-NY competition and send my congratulations to all of the winners and participants this year. I look forward to seeing you create the technologies and jobs of the future, while continuing to provide a boost our local farmers.” 

Other Winners included: 

$500,000 Winner: – Craft Cannery, (Bergen, NY) – 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. 

$500,000 Winner: Hempitecture, (Ketchum, ID) – 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. 

$250,000 Winner: Labby, (Cambridge, MA) – 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. 

$250,000 Winner: Sweet Pea Plant-Based Kitchen, (Rochester, NY) – 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 to sustain a healthy life. 

$250,000 Winner: 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 and predict yield, and provide means for early diagnosis of pests, diseases, and nutrient deficiencies. 

$250,000 Winner: Zalliant, (Amsterdam, NY) – Zalliant’s IoT and artificial intelligence technologies provide value and efficiency to farmers through improved decision making and management. 

The competition also featured an “Audience Choice” award for the startup voted by the public to have the most standout and promising pitch. Seneca Farms Biochar, of Odessa, NY, received $10,000 in prize money sponsored by Wegmans.  

Grow-NY judges based award decisions on the following criteria: 

·         The viability of the startup’s business model 

·         The diversity, quality, readiness, and completeness of the startup team  

·         The value that the startup offers customers 

·         The agrifood innovation that that the startup has invented 

The job growth and opportunity potential that the startup can bring to the region 

Past Grow-NY winners have continued to raise money, expand, and thrive. RealEats, year one’s top prize winner, has raised over $20 million in additional funding and entered a partnership with GNC. They recently opened an 80,000 square-foot production facility in Geneva, N.Y. SoFresh, another year-one winner, has generated $3.3 million to expand into new food markets. Year-three grand prize winner Every Body Eat has made its way into Whole Foods Market stores nationwide. Other winners have expanded their customer bases, developed strategic partnerships, and continued to secure funding.  

Grow-NY Program Director Jenn Smith said, “Grow-NY finalists and winners continue to surpass our expectations on all fronts, successfully leveraging the strengths of the region to scale their ventures, adding jobs, attracting investment, and reinforcing New York’s role as a global agrifood leader. I offer my most enthusiastic congratulations to this year’s cohort.” 

 All winners are required to work towards making a positive economic impact in the Grow-NY region, which consists of 22 counties that serve as home to vibrant farmlands, abundant freshwater, and several rising cities, including Rochester, Syracuse, Ithaca, Geneva, and Binghamton. The winning businesses will foster job growth, connect with local industry partners, and contribute to a thriving economy.  

 Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Hope Knight said, “Congratulations to the Grow-NY winners, and to all who participated in round four of this unique agriculture-based business competition. I’m proud of New York State’s role in supporting Grow-NY, as these startups continue to build entrepreneurial ecosystems and boost innovative economic growth across the rich farming and agricultural areas of the Finger Lakes, Central and Southern Tier regions.”    

Central New York Regional Economic Development Council Co-Chairs Randy Wolken, President & CEO of the Manufacturers Association of Central New York and Le Moyne College President Linda M. LeMura said, “We are pleased to offer many congratulations to all of today’s winners and to all who were part of round four of the Grow-NY competition that was held this year in downtown Syracuse. New York State continues to experience unprecedented growth in the agriculture and food industries. The Grow-NY 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-Chairs Bob Duffy, President and CEO, Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce and Dr. Denise Battles, President of SUNY Geneseo said, “We are so incredibly proud of all who took part in round four of this innovative competition. The regional council is laser-focused on growing the state’s agricultural and food industries. Our continued investment in the Grow-NY competition is working to connect local industry partners with the cutting-edge ideas of these entrepreneurs, further supporting our multi-pronged approach to creating a thriving regional economy.”  

Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council Co-Chairs Judy McKinney Cherry, Executive Director, Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development and Dr. Kevin Drumm, President of SUNY Broome Community College said, “We would like to offer our sincere congratulations to the winning teams and to all of the round four Grow-NY competitors. Innovation and entrepreneurship are key to our economic future. New York’s agriculture industry is one of the most diverse and prestigious in the world, and this initiative sets New York apart from other states, no doubt adding to our regions continued economic success.” 

To learn more about the Grow-NY competition visit  

To learn more about Cornell University’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement 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 Regional Economic Development Councils and the marketing of “I LOVE NEW YORK,” the State’s iconic tourism brand. For more information on Regional Councils and Empire State Development, visit and

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