Nov 9, 2020
Food and ag innovation to be featured at Virtual Grow-NY Summit

Smart drones that distribute beneficial insects on crops, packaging materials to extend the shelf life of bread, and technology to transform food waste into nutrients for hydroponic farming – these are a few of the innovations to be featured at this year’s virtual Grow-NY Food and Ag Summit, Nov. 17-18.

“New York state is committed to supporting our world-renowned food and agricultural industry,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a recent announcement of the 20 finalists participating in the competition, which is focused on strengthening food and agriculture innovation in the Grow-NY region (central New York, Finger Lakes, Southern Tier).

Once again, the Grow-NY competition has attracted a group of diverse, innovative entrepreneurs who are ready to focus on finding new, innovative ways to further transform this critical industry,” Cuomo said. “It is through targeted efforts like Grow-NY that we will continue to bolster these regional economies, fostering statewide growth.”

During the second annual summit, the selected food and ag startups will compete for $3 million in prizes – a $1 million top prize, two $500,000 prizes and four $250,000 prizes. Additionally, food and agriculture thought leaders from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) and Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) will be leading a series of panels and discussions featuring industry experts.

Last year, the Grow-NY Food and Ag Summit attracted more than 900 attendees; adhering to COVID-19 safety protocols, this year’s summit will be completely virtual. Free registration for the summit is now open, as is registration for the awards ceremony, scheduled for Nov. 23.

The 20 finalists – selected from 264 applicants from around the world – have been working closely with their assigned mentors to better understand how they can make the biggest impact in the Grow-NY region and prepare to pitch their businesses to a panel of expert judges.

Six of this year’s finalists have Cornell connections:

Halomine (Ithaca): CEO Ted Eveleth ’90 and CTO Mingyu Qiao, a postdoctoral researcher, are members of on-campus technology incubator Praxis Center for Venture Development, and have teamed up to create antimicrobial solutions – licensed through Cornell’s Center for Technology Licensing – to ensure food safety. Halomine has also partnered with the McGovern Center for Venture Development in the Life Sciences to conduct biological research and testing against coronaviruses.

Leep Foods (Rochester, New York): Dedicated to growing organic mushrooms using regenerative soil methods on nutrient-enriched hardwoods, the startup worked with the Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture at Cornell AgriTech to develop a blended mushroom burger.

Norwhey (Ithaca):  Co-founder and CEO Samuel Alcaine, M.S. ’07, an assistant professor in Cornell’s Department of Food Science, is upcycling New York state’s yogurt whey into alcoholic beverages.

Candidus (Hull, Georgia): Candidus is developing cost-effective supplemental lighting strategies and control systems for commercial greenhouse operations. Co-founder Eric Mattos is also the executive director of the Greenhouse Lighting & Systems Engineering consortium, led in partnership by Cornell and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute of Troy, New York.

Asarasi (Katonah, New York): By repurposing the water that makes up 97% of maple sap, this beverage startup is creating a sustainable alternative to bottled sparkling water. The Department of Food Science has partnered with Asarasi to validate its food safety processes. (New York City): COO Rachel Gabato ’90 and the rest of her team are providing a platform to access transparent and reliable information on the origin, journey and quality of one’s food.

The summit also include a symposium, produced by eCornell, featuring CALS faculty and other Cornell staff leading panel discussions on the latest food and agriculture industry challenges and opportunities, including:

  • Drafting a Roadmap for Emerging Crops: moderated by Gary Bergstrom, professor of plant pathology and plant-microbe biology (CALS);
  • Hemp’s Regulatory Landscape: moderated by Larry Smart, professor of horticulture (CALS) and the associate director of Cornell AgriTech in Geneva, New York.
  • Mending our Fractured Food System: moderated by Christine Mehta, research manager for the Center for Regional Economic Advancement.
  • Changing Climate, Changing Farms: moderated by Julie Suarez, associate dean for land-grant affairs (CALS) and featuring Ariel Ortiz-Bobea, assistant professor at the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management.
  • A Feast from Crumbs – Salvaging Food Waste:  moderated by Samuel Alcaine, assistant professor of food science (CALS).
  • Risks and Rewards – Launching an Innovative CPG: Fireside chat with Aishwarya Iyer, founder and CEO of Brightland, led by Catharine Young, executive director of the Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture at Cornell AgriTech.
  • Bending, Not Breaking – Food and Bev Startup Resilience and Adaptability: moderated by Chris Gerling, senior extension associate at Cornell AgriTech.

For registration and more information on the Grow-NY Food and Ag Summit and awards ceremony, visit

– Sara Baier is a marketing and communications specialist for the Center for Regional Economic Advancement.

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