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'Grow-NY' aims to generate agricultural innovation and jobs

New York state has kicked off another business competition, this time focusing on the state’s agricultural industry.

The state already has competitions designed to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in the high tech industry and in a variety of upstate projects, and now it has created something called 'Grow-NY.'

It is designed to focus on growing and enhancing the food and agriculture business in the Finger Lakes, Central New York and the Southern Tier.

This new competition will offer a total of $3 million in funding for each round, with start-up companies competing to win up to a $1 million top prize.

Tom Schryver is executive director of Cornell University’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement which is administering the competition.

“Think of it from farm to fork, from stuff that happens on the farm to grow new foods; farm tech, ag tech, precision agriculture, all the way to things around food packaging, new food types, or branded foods and everything in between,” Schryver explained.

Governor Andrew Cuomo says the idea is to attract innovative start-ups who want to “put down roots in Upstate New York."

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Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul helped kick off the competition Friday at LiDestri Food and Drink in Rochester at their Innovation Center.

She says New York already has a booming agriculture industry. "We are number two in apples and pears and maple syrup, number two in the nation…number three with respect to cabbage and grapes and dairy and indeed half of our agriculture output in the entire state of New York does come from dairy,” Hochul said.

LiDestri Food and Drink, and Co-President, Stefani LiDestri says her company likes to be involved in something that encourages food that is grown and processed in New York state.

“We partner with local companies as often as we can even on the product side, bringing finished goods into the market with a customer; most recently we’re doing that with Ithaca Hummus out of Cornell,” LiDestri said.

Bill Strassburg is a vice president with Wegmans. He says the supermarket chain also likes to promote the development of agriculture in New York state.

“Our customers prefer locally grown and produced products; it makes it fresher when they’re produced here, we can have more and better quality control over the products when they’re produced here, so there’s a lot of big advantages to having the food produced in our region,” Strassburg told WXXI News.

The hope is that companies involved in the competition will eventually decide to locate in New York State and create jobs.  As part of the rules for the competition, winners will have to commit to operating in the Finger Lakes, Central New York or Southern Tier regions for at least one year.


Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.