Food-delivery service RealEats America won the $1 million grand prize at the inaugural Grow-NY business competition, an innovation and technology startup challenge focused on enhancing the emerging food, beverage and agriculture hub in parts of New York state. Six other companies split an additional $2 million in prize money, which was handed out by the Empire State Development and Cornell University’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement during the two-day Grow-NY Food and Ag Summit this month.
“The agricultural economy in New York continues to grow with increased investment in our farms and local products,” New York Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul said. “The first round of the Grow-NY Competition has been a success, and we are excited about the potential that these entrepreneurs have to make the industry even stronger. These companies are developing ideas and plans to revolutionize the industry by transforming sustainability and improving the health and well-being of New Yorkers.”
Seventeen finalists pitched their business plans to a live audience and panel of judges during the summit held Nov. 12 and 13. The event attracted over 900 attendees and featured more than 75 food and agricultural exhibitors. For the awards, the winners are committing to operate in Central New York, the Finger Lakes, or the Southern Tier region for at least one year.
Here are the winners:
Grand Prize $1,000,000 Winner: RealEats America, Geneva, New York — The mission is to make it easy for anybody to get and enjoy meals cooked by chefs using whole, natural ingredients that aren’t processed and don’t have any added junk or other stuff you wouldn’t want to eat.
$500,000 Winner: Dropcopter, Syracuse, New York — The leader in automated pollination of orchard crops via unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). The company helps growers improve farming efficiency and drive healthy crop yield growth.
$500,000 Winner: Tiliter, Munchen, Germany — They’ve created a camera that automatically identifies your fruit and vegetables at the checkout so you don’t have to.
$250,000 Winner: Capro-X, Ithaca, New York — Capro-X is increasing sustainability in the dairy industry by solving the acid whey waste problem prevalent in Greek yogurt production.
$250,000 Winner: Combplex, Ithaca, New York — The mission is to help beekeepers, pollinators, and farmers work together to create a more resilient ecosystem.
$250,000 Winner: The Perfect Granola, Victor, New York — The Perfect Granola gives thousands of pounds of food and support to hundreds of organizations.
$250,000 Winner: Whole Healthy Food, Ithaca, New York — They create product to reduce your carbohydrate/calorie intake without changing your diet.
Judges based award decisions on the following five criteria:
- Viability of Commercialization and Business Model — the potential for the entrant to generate revenue and maintain a cost structure that allows for a competitive and sustainable business, demonstrate technological readiness, or innovate to fulfill its value proposition;
- Customer Value — the degree to which the entrant is providing something for which customers are willing to pay, and addressing a substantial market;
- Food and Agriculture Innovation — the extent to which the entrant is pushing what’s considered state-of-the-art in the food and agriculture industries, and contributing to Upstate NY’s status as a global leader in innovation in these markets;
- Regional Job Creation — the potential for creating high-quality jobs in the Grow-NY footprint; and
- Team — the quality and completeness of the team and its readiness to deliver.
All finalists received dedicated mentorship from hand-selected regional business advisors leading up to the competition. Such mentorship included pitch training to hone live presentation skills along with an expenses-paid, multi-day business development trip to the Grow-NY region.
Nearly 200 applicants applied to this year’s competition, including entrants from North America, Europe, Central America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia Pacific. In the U.S., 23 states were represented.