Say the words “New York” to people from outside the state, and more than likely their first thought will have something to do with the Big Apple – New York City. But the Empire State is known for its little apples, as well.
According to the state Department of Agriculture and Markets, more than 7 million acres of New York – or about 20% of the state’s land – is farmland. Nearly 36,000 family farms have helped the state rank No. 2 nationally in the production of apples, snap beans and maple syrup, and in the top 10 in 30 commodities overall.
New York is a leader and an innovator in both agriculture and food production, and Cornell is partnering with the state to foster more growth in those spaces.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced May 31 that entries are being accepted for Grow-NY, a business competition and support program for innovative, high-growth startups in food and agriculture.
“New York’s agricultural industry is one of the best in world, and the Grow-NY competition will attract innovative startups focused on this industry to put down roots in upstate New York,” Cuomo said in a statement. “By bringing in new companies to find new ways to transform our state’s food and agricultural industry, we are continuing to bolster these regional economies and foster growth in this critical industry statewide.”
“New York has among the best food products in the world, and the agricultural industry is an important part of our upstate economy,” said Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who made the announcement May 31 in Rochester. “Continuing to build on our investments in agriculture, we’ve launched the Grow-NY competition to fund and support startups in the industry. We are committed to fostering innovative ideas, boosting job growth, and promoting our farms and agricultural products that will further strengthen the economy.”
Scheduled for 2019, 2020 and 2021, Grow-NY will distribute $3 million in awards each year, including a $1 million award, two $500,000 awards and four $250,000 awards. Mentorship, incubator space and other services will be provided to support the startups.
Grow-NY, expected to be one of the largest food and agriculture business competitions in the nation, will leverage existing resources in the rapidly growing food and agriculture innovation cluster in the Finger Lakes, central New York and Southern Tier regions of the state. Winning companies will be required to operate in these regions for at least one year and execute bold plans to grow jobs, connect with local partners, and contribute to a thriving upstate economy.
“Grow-NY is a tremendous opportunity to fuel growth in New York’s farm and food economy through spurring innovation across our local food systems,” said Kathryn J. Boor ’80, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “By supporting entrepreneurship, the Finger Lakes, central and Southern Tier regions of New York can drive creation and sale of delicious and healthy local food products to meet the changing tastes of consumers and help New York lead the way as an innovation hub in the local food movement.”
Cornell’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement (CREA) will leverage its experience managing the state’s 76West Clean Energy Competition to administer the competition, with support from organizations across the state including Cornell AgriTech, its New York State Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture, and Cornell Cooperative Extension programs.
“As a top-10 national institution for entrepreneurship with a top-five global agriculture school, Cornell is passionate about fostering startup growth and advancing breakthrough innovations in food and agriculture,” said Tom Schryver, executive director of CREA.
Funding for Grow-NY will be provided through Empire State Development and the Upstate Revitalization Initiative organization connected with each of the three regions – Finger Lakes Forward, CNY Rising and Southern Tier Soaring.
Applications for the 2019 competition opened May 31 and will be accepted through July 15. A panel of industry judges will trim the applications down to a group of up to 20 finalists, who will receive mentorship and a curated, complimentary business development trip spanning the three regions this summer.
Finalists will pitch their business ideas at the Grow-NY Food and Ag Summit, to be held Nov. 12-13 at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center. The summit will include the live pitch competition, an awards ceremony announcing the winners, a symposium hosted by the Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture, and an exhibition featuring more than 100 innovative food and ag businesses and industry resources.
Molly Israel is a marketing strategist at the Center for Regional Economic Advancement.