Empire State Development has announced that the application window is open, and applications must be submitted by 5 p.m. ET on Thursday, June 15 for round five of the Grow-NY food and agriculture competition.
New this year, the Summit will also include a Dairy Innovation Showcase featuring participants in the Northeastern Dairy Product Innovation Competition, also currently accepting applications.
Grow-NY is a unique initiative that connects innovators and investors in the food, beverage, and agriculture sectors locally and around the globe. So far, this competition has resulted in economic growth and entrepreneurial opportunity in upstate New York with the addition of more than 200 new jobs and millions of dollars in follow-on investments.
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “The Grow-NY food and agriculture competition helps to boost our upstate economy and spread the word that New York State is a great place to make some of the best, freshest, most innovative products in the world. I thank Governor Hochul for her continued support of this initiative and encourage businesses big and small to apply for round five and show us the agricultural products of the future.”
Winners are required to commit to operating in at least one of the 22 Grow-NY counties for at least 12 months and must agree to a “pay-it-forward” provision in the form of an equity agreement.
One finalist will receive a top prize of $1 million, two others will be awarded $500,000 prizes, and four more will be given $250,000 prizes. Winners will also receive publicity support to announce their achievements across the Grow-NY region and in their home regions.
The startup competition begins its fifth year with impressive momentum, having garnered applications and interest from over a thousand businesses in 41 unique states and 46 countries outside of the United States over the last four years. In all, 79 startups have participated as finalists, with 28 winners sharing $12 million in startup funding as well as the invaluable mentorship and networking benefits that the program delivers to finalists.
Past Grow-NY winners have continued to raise money, expand, and succeed. Soos, Year Two grand prize winner, set up and staffed an R&D facility at a poultry farm in Central NY, and is working with technicians in collaboration with Syracuse University to expand their technology. Year Three grand prize winner, Every Body Eat, is on the shelves of Whole Foods Market stores around the United States, while $500,000 Year Four winner, Hempitecture, recently became the first company to open an industrial hemp manufacturing facility in the U.S.
»Related: ProAgni is the 2022 Grow-NY contest’s grand prize winner
In addition to emphasizing innovation and scalability, the Grow-NY program is focused on drawing more diverse leaders to the region by reaching communities that have historically been left out of the innovation economy. In 2022, 75 percent of the 390 applicants included a founder from an underrepresented minority group, and 38 percent included a female founder.
“After four rounds of competition, the Grow-NY effect has resulted in the addition of hundreds of new jobs, the revitalization of commercial space, the development of agrifood infrastructure, and the follow-on of over $82 million in new investor activity lifting the critical ag sector throughout the region. It goes beyond the startups in our portfolio, and beyond even the food and farming communities, to lift businesses small and large throughout the region” said Grow-NY program director Jenn Smith.
In August, up to 20 finalists will be assigned mentors and enter the business development phase. All finalists will receive bespoke entrepreneurial support and valuable regional introductions, additional training to hone their live pitches, and an expenses-paid, three-day business development trip to the region for up to two team members.