Food Entrepreneur NEW YORK — Food and agriculture startups may apply to participate in the Grow-NY business competition, an initiative established to promote entrepreneurial opportunity and economic growth in upstate New York.

Twenty finalists will be selected to receive mentorship, support and connections to the region’s resources. The program will culminate in the Grow-NY Summit, Nov. 14-15, where selected participants will present business plans to a panel of judges. One finalist will receive a top prize of $1 million, two will be awarded $500,000 prizes, and four will win $250,000 prizes. Winners are required to commit to operating in at least one of the 22 counties in the Grow-NY region for at least 12 months and must agree to a “pay-it-forward” provision in the form of an equity agreement.

In its fifth year, the Grow-NY program is focused on attracting more diverse leaders to the region. In 2022, 75% of the 390 applicants included a founder from an underrepresented minority group, and nearly two in five had a female founder.

“After four rounds of competition, the Grow-NY effect has resulted in the addition of hundreds of new jobs, the revitalization of commercial space, the development of agrifood infrastructure, and the follow-on of over $82 million in new investor activity lifting the critical ag sector throughout the region,” said Jenn Smith, director of the Grow-NY program. “It goes beyond the startups in our portfolio, and beyond even the food and farming communities, to lift businesses small and large throughout the region.”

The program is funded by Empire State Development from the Upstate Revitalization Initiatives regional entities and is administered by Cornell University’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement.

“The fifth round of the Grow-NY agribusiness accelerator will help to build on the incredible success of earlier competition winners whose entrepreneurial ideas are fueling economic growth upstate,” said Hope Knight, president, chief executive officer and commissioner of Empire State Development. “These innovative companies have attracted significant investment throughout the Grow-NY region and around the world, and I can’t wait to see what the next crop of selected, forward-thinking entrepreneurs will bring to the table.”

The Grow-NY region includes Central New York, the Finger Lakes and the Southern Tier and is home to more than 40% of New York’s 33,438 farms. Previous winners of the competition have continued to raise capital and expand, creating more than 200 jobs in the area. A total of 79 startups have participated as finalists, with 28 winners sharing $12 million in startup funding.

Applications may be submitted through June 15 at 

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