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Grow-NY business contest accepts applicants through July 1

By Eric Reinhardt (


Dropcopter, a member of the Tech Garden in Syracuse, in November 2019 won a $500,000 prize in the Grow-NY agribusiness competition. The two-day pitch event was held in Rochester that year. Grow-NY is accepting applications for the fourth round of the food and agriculture competition through July 1, Empire State Development announced May 16. (PHOTO CREDIT: TECH GARDEN TWITTER Profile)

Those interested in getting involved in the Grow-NY food and agriculture competition have until the early part of summer to apply.

Grow-NY has begun accepting applications for the fourth round of the business contest, Empire State Development (ESD) announced May 16. 

The initiative seeks to connect “innovators and investors” in the food, beverage, and agriculture sectors locally and around the globe, ESD said. 

The competition has already resulted in economic growth and entrepreneurial opportunity in upstate New York, with “hundreds of new jobs and millions of dollars of follow-on investment” as a result, ESD contended. 

The Grow-NY region is a 22-county area spanning Central New York, the Finger Lakes, and the Southern Tier. 

The competition attracts high-growth food and agriculture startups to compete for $3 million in total prize money each year and supports 20 finalists through a business-development phase that connects them with the region’s resources. 

Gov. Kathy Hochul included funding for three additional rounds of the competition in the latest state budget, ESD noted.

“This fourth round of Grow-NY will further build on the success of earlier competition winners, whose entrepreneurial ideas are fueling economic growth Upstate,” Hope Knight, president, CEO, and commissioner of Empire State Development, said. “These innovative companies have attracted significant investment and are seeding the ground for even more innovation, both throughout the Grow-NY region and around the world.” 

Applications must be submitted by July 1. Those interested can apply at website

Additional details

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, ESD explained. 

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 tax incentives and publicity support to announce their achievements across the Grow-NY region and in their home regions. 

Funding for the program comes through Empire State Development from the Upstate Revitalization Initiative’s three regional entities, CNY Rising, Finger Lakes Forward, and Southern Tier Soaring, and is administered by Cornell’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement.

“Cornell is proud to support the Grow-NY competition, which plays a vital role in catalyzing food and agriculture start-ups and entrepreneurship across our region,” Benjamin Houlton, dean of the Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said. “By partnering across the public and private sectors, Grow-NY is critical to scaling new technologies and innovations needed to meet our state’s goals for more sustainable food systems that provide healthy, nutritious food to all.”

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