The first round of the Grow-NY food innovation and agriculture technology business challenge has received 199 applications. The initiative is focused on enhancing the emerging food, beverage and agriculture innovation cluster in the Finger Lakes, Central New York and Southern Tier regions. The Grow-NY region includes a 22-county swath of Upstate New York’s most vibrant farmlands and major urban centers, including Rochester.

The applicants represent North America, Europe, Central America, Africa and the Middle East – with one applicant from New Zealand. Most of the international applicants are from Canada and Israel. In the U.S., 23 states were represented, with 13 submissions from Massachusetts, eight from California, and five from New Jersey. More than half of all submitted applications came from within New York State. Thirty-two percent of all applicants are women, and 28 percent of the businesses were started by women. 

A panel of Grow-NY judges will now narrow down the applicants to a group of up to 20 finalists. The finalist startups will be invited to the region and assigned mentors as they develop their business plans and prepare their business pitches.  Finalists will pitch their business ideas and plans to a panel of judges and a live audience from Nov. 12 to 13 at the Grow-NY Food and Ag Summit held at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center. 

“It was no surprise to see such strong interest for this program. The Upstate New York region is gaining strong traction globally as a great place for startups,” said Tom Schryver, executive director of Cornell University’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement, which is administrating the initiative. “Internally, we had established a target of 150 applicants to consider this stage a success, so to exceed that figure by nearly one third – and to generate the broad geographic, gender and ethnic diversity we’re seeing on top of that – it makes us all excited as to the prospects for this initiative and the impact it could have on our region.”

Register for the summit here.