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Two Ithaca firms among 20 finalists in this year’s Grow-NY competition

By Eric Reinhardt (


Dropcopter, a tenant at the Tech Garden in Syracuse, captured a $500,000 prize in the 2019 Grow-NY agribusiness competition. RealEats America of Geneva won the $1 million top prize in the contest’s inaugural year. The finalists in the 2020 Grow-NY competition were announced on Wednesday. (Photo credit: Tech Garden Twitter page)

ITHACA, N.Y. — Two Ithaca companies — Halomine and Norwhey — are among the 20 finalists announced Wednesday in the second year of the state’s $3 million Grow-NY competition.

Halomine develops anti-microbial products to ensure the safety of the food supply. Norwhey seeks to transform New York state’s yogurt whey into “delicious and sustainable” alcoholic beverages, as described in a news release from the office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Grow-NY is a food innovation and agriculture technology business challenge focused on enhancing the emerging food, beverage and agriculture innovation cluster in Central New York, the Finger Lakes, and the Southern Tier.

The finalists also include two firms from Rochester. Leep Foods grows organic mushrooms using regenerative soil methods on “nutrient-enriched” American hardwoods for consumers and restaurants. Crystal Creek Organics converts soluble phosphorous in liquid manure into a non-soluble, revenue-generating, solid by-product.

In all, 264 startups applied from 27 countries that included Israel, Germany, and Argentina. In the U.S., 26 states were represented, including 98 entries from New York.

A panel of 30 independent judges — which included food, beverage, and agriculture businesses and academics — reviewed all the applications to determine the top 20 finalists that will pitch their business plans at the virtual Grow-NY Food and Ag Summit, scheduled Nov. 17 and 18.

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 prizes and four $250,000 prizes.

Cornell University’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement is administering the competition and Empire State Development is providing funding for the Grow-NY competition through its Upstate Revitalization Initiative connected with the three regions — CNY Rising, Finger Lakes Forward and Southern Tier Soaring.

The winner will be required to make a positive economic impact in the Grow-NY region, which features counties within Central New York, the Finger Lakes, and the Southern Tier.

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