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Two Ithaca startups advance in Grow-NY competition

By Traci DeLore (


Norwhey Brewing, whose products are pictured, and Forte Protein are two of the 20 finalists for this year’s Grow-NY comptetition, which will award its $1 million top prize on Nov. 17. (Photo credit: Norwhey Brewing website)

ITHACA, N.Y. — Two Ithaca–area businesses are among the 20 finalists in the running for the $1 million top prize in this year’s Grow-NY competition.

Forte Protein of Trumansburg uses plant-based technology to produce a broad spectrum of proteins without the need for animals, eliminating the carbon footprint involved in animal agriculture. Forte’s products include plant-based versions of lactoferrin, casein, albumin, collagen, and myosin.

Norwhey Brewing of Interlaken transforms New York’s yogurt byproducts into a Nordic twist on hard seltzer by fermenting excess whey. Norwhey’s products are available across western New York at Wegmans, GreenStar, The Finger Lakes Beverage Center, and other beer retailers.

Empire State Development and Cornell University’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement (CREA) announced the finalists for the food and agriculture-business competition that focuses on promoting the emerging food, beverage, and agriculture innovation cluster in the Central New York, Finger Lakes, and Southern Tier regions.

The finalists participate in a 10-week business-development phase, where they receive mentorship from a business adviser, introductions to area leaders and resources, business tours, business-development support, additional pitch training to hone their presentations for the judges, and workshops to connect them to potential partners and opportunities.

The program culminates with a live pitch at the Grow-NY Food and Ag Summit Nov. 15-16 at the Oncenter in Syracuse. The summit will take place both in person and virtually with finalists pitching their business ideas live in front of an audience and answering questions from the 30-member judging panel.

Grow-NY will reveal this year’s winners during a virtual award ceremony on Nov. 17. The winner of the top prize takes home $1 million. There are two $500,000 prizes and four $250,000 prizes.

“For the fourth consecutive year, Grow-NY broke its own record for applications but what is most energizing is the composition of startups that applied to make their mark in the thriving entrepreneurship ecosystem in upstate New York,” Grow-NY Program Director Jenn Smith said in a release announcing the finalists. “We are delighted to have several international finalists and are just as excited to watch the multiple home-grown teams compete.”

A total of 385 startups applied from 52 countries. There were 225 international applicants and 160 domestic-based applications from 25 different states.

CREA administers the competition funded through New York’s Upstate Revitalization Initiative.

The Grow-NY winner must commit to making a positive economic impact in the 22-county Grow-NY region.

To learn more about the competition or see the complete list of finalists, visit


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