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LeafSpec named finalist for round five of $3 Million Grow-NY Global Food and Agriculture Business Competition

Empire State Development (ESD) and Cornell University’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement (CREA) have announced the 20 finalists selected to take part in year five of Grow-NY, a food and agriculture business competition focused on enhancing the emerging food, beverage, and agriculture innovation cluster in upstate New York. The competition is funded through New York State’s Upstate Revitalization Initiative and administered by CREA. Winning companies will be required to make a positive economic impact in the Grow-NY region, which comprises 22 counties located in Central NY, the Finger Lakes, and the Southern Tier regions.

Empire State Development President, CEO, and Commissioner Hope Knight said, “The innovative Grow-NY business competition has once again attracted a group of exceptional startups and entrepreneurial talent from around the world. Grow-NY’s agribusiness focus demonstrates New York State’s continued dedication to supporting agriculture advancements that will create jobs and grow the Central New York, Finger Lakes, and Southern Tier economies.”

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “For five years, the Grow-NY competition has showcased the strength and diversity of New York State’s agriculture and food businesses. The program has consistently helped enhance our agricultural economy, attracting exciting, cutting-edge companies that are creating innovative new agricultural technologies and career paths while supporting New York farmers. I congratulate not only the finalists but all the startups and entrepreneurs who participated in the competition and look forward to seeing all that they will go on to do.”

In total, 323 startups applied from 49 countries, including Canada, the UK, and Italy. Domestic teams also showed strong interest, with 32 states represented in the applicant pool, including 81 entries from New York. Forty-two percent of applicants included a female founder, and 61 percent included a founder from an underrepresented minority group.

A panel of 30 judges, reflecting a depth and breadth of regional expertise, knowledge of the region’s agriculture and food production communities, and entrepreneurial experience, reviewed all the applications to determine the top 20 finalists that will pitch their business plans at the Grow-NY Food and Ag Summit in Binghamton in 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 awards, and four $250,000 prizes.

Indiana-based finalist LeafSpec is an accurate, affordable, and portable hyperspectral crop leaf imager that provides measurements of a plant’s physiological features such as leaf moisture content, chlorophyll content, nitrogen content, pathogen and insect diseases and stresses from chemical sprays without damage to the plant.

The 10-week business development phase is an accelerator through which the 20 finalists receive:

  • Dedicated mentorship from a business advisor selected by our program team for their subject matter expertise and presence in the region;
  • Introduction to the region’s leaders and resources to connect them to potential partnerships and other strategic opportunities;
  • Site visits, business tours, and industrial and economic development agency introductions for finalist team representatives;
  • Business development support and workshops help them fine-tune their regional plans and
  • Pitch training to hone their live presentation skills for the Grow-NY judges and other potential sources of capital.

“We saw the Grow-NY effect in action with this year’s applications. The successes of our portfolio of winning companies attracted participation from startups innovating throughout the agrifood supply chain across the globe, addressing Main Street economic health, the climate crisis, and how we feed our growing population,” said Jenn Smith, Program Director, Grow-NY. “We are thrilled to welcome the 20 startups selected to participate in this year’s accelerator.”

The accelerator culminates with a live pitch at the Grow-NY Food and Ag Summit, scheduled for November 14 and 15 at the Holiday Inn Downtown in Binghamton. The Summit will 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. The event also includes a food and agriculture symposium and ecosystem expo. This year’s winners will be revealed in a live awards presentation at the conclusion of the Summit.

“It is equal parts inspiring and exciting to see Grow-NY’s business competition gaining global recognition in its fifth year,” said Benjamin Houlton, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “Cornell CALS is proud to leverage our research and development strengths in support of this year’s cohort of startups as they tackle the most complex challenges of our time—working to improve our world’s health, food, economy, and environment while simultaneously bolstering New York’s innovation ecosystem.”

For more information:
AgriNovus Indiana

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