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$3 million food and farming competition hopes to reach minority-owned businesses

Agriculture business
The Grow-NY competition is a program and competition that gives resources to food and agriculture startups.

Applications are currently open for Grow-NY, a program and competition that gives resources to food and agriculture startups to expand in the Finger Lakes, central New York and the Southern Tier.

Twenty finalists are connected with investors and compete to win a grand prize of $1 million that comes through Empire State Development.

Grow-NY program director Jenn Smith said companies founded by women and people of color are often shut out of the innovation economy. She’s hoping to change that this year.

“If we are able to leverage the ambitions and resources of this program to simultaneously reach those kinds of founders that often don't get attention, then it's a win-win,” Smith said.

She said competitors don’t have to be from the state, but they do have to demonstrate how they can benefit a particular region.

“Somebody working in energy storage and clean tech as it relates to agriculture, they might end up steering toward Binghamton," Smith said. “In Syracuse, there's a great deal of strength in autonomy and ... robotics and big data. And then in Rochester, there's optics and photonics.”

Smith said entrants from the Grow-NY region have a "home court" advantage in the competition.

“They really do understand the kind of lived experience of the agri-food system here," she said. "Their technologies are developing precisely because they understand the demand for them firsthand.”

The application deadline is July 1. To apply and see a list of previous finalists, go to

April Franklin is an occasional local host of WXXI's Weekend Edition.