Grow-NY selects 18 finalists. ( Courtesy of Grow-NY website )

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced the 18 companies selected for round one of the Grow-NY food innovation and agriculture technology business challenge. 

The contenders were chosen from a field of almost 200 startups that applied to be part of the initiative, which is focused on enhancing the emerging food, beverage and agriculture innovation cluster in Central New York, the Finger Lakes and the Southern Tier portions of the state, according to a news release.

The applicant pool represented 23 different states and 16 countries. 

The Grow-NY region includes a broad 22-county swath that includes Upstate New York’s farming community as well as several major urban centers, including Rochester, Syracuse, Ithaca and Binghamton.

“The Grow-NY competition has attracted a group of diverse, innovative entrepreneurs who are ready to focus on finding new ways to further transform New York State’s world-renowned food and agricultural industry,” Cuomo said in the release. “Through efforts like Grow-NY, we are continuing to bolster these regional economies and foster statewide growth in this critical industry.”

The selected finalists include:

  • AgVoice, Norcross, Ga.: A mobile voice-interaction service designed for food and agriculture professionals to capture insights on the go;
  • Dropcopter, Syracuse, N.Y.: Automated pollination of orchard crops with drones to help farmers improve efficiency and healthy crop yield growth;
  • Halomine, Ithaca, N.Y.: Food safety company that develops rechargeable antimicrobial technologies for uses in food processing plants, health care facilities and other places;
  • Nuravine, New York, N.Y.: Environmental automation company specializing in intelligent fertigation solutions for indoor farmers;
  • Radical Plastics, Beverly, Mass.: Blends conventional plastics with a proprietary, naturally occurring catalyst to make biodegradable plastic compounds for uses including agricultural film and mulch film.
  • Re-Nuble, Rochester, N.Y.: Transforms food waste into plant-based technologies for both soil-based and hydroponic cultivation to optimize plant productivity and nutrient density;
  • Tiliter, Munich, Germany: Uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to replace barcodes and streamline the retail checkout process for consumers; and
  • Varcode, Naperville, Ill.: Creates digital traceability for temperature-sensitive supply chains to protect quality, reduce waste, ensure safety and simplify compliance.

Each startup business has been assigned a mentor to help make connections in the region, plan regional business trips and refine business pitches. The finalists will pitch their ideas to a panel of Grow-NY judges and a live audience from Nov. 12-13, at the Grow-NY Food and Ag Summit at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center. Cornell University is administering the competition through its Center for Regional Economic Advancement.

“Each winning company is poised to make a tremendous impact on our upstate economy and will be fueled, not only by the prize funds, but also by the tremendous array of resources only upstate New York can offer,” Tom Schryver, executive director of Cornell University’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement, said in the release.

The competition will run for two more rounds. It will award a total of $3 million each round to seven winners, all payable in stages, based on business milestones, according to the release. This includes a $1 million top prize, two $500,000 prizes and four $250,000 in prizes.

The winners will have to commit to operating in the targeted regions for at least one year and will have to agree to participate in an equity share program.

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