New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Nov. 23 that animal science company Soos Technology of Kidron, Israel was named as the $1 million grand prize winner of Round Two of Grow-NY, a global food and agriculture business competition.
The competition – which focuses on strengthening the food and agriculture innovation cluster within the Central New York, Finger Lakes and Southern Tier regions of New York – attracted more than 260 applicants worldwide this year and the top 20 finalists competed in a virtual pitch competition.
“I want to congratulate all the companies that took place in the second round of our Grow-NY Competition,” Cuomo said. “The innovations these companies have helped drive are creating a lasting economic impact on New York’s agribusiness as we continue our work to build our economy back better. The Grow-NY targeted investment will not only help these companies continue to innovate, but will further support New York state’s regional economies by drawing even more worldwide attention to our globally renowned food and agriculture industry.”
“The agricultural economy in New York continues to grow with increased investment in our farms, in farming and food processing technology innovation, and in local products,” Lieutenant Gov. Kathy Hochul said.”The first round of the Grow-NY Competition was a success, and we are excited about the potential that these entrepreneurs have to continue to make the industry even stronger. These companies are developing ideas and plans to revolutionize the industry by transforming sustainability and improving the health and well-being of New Yorkers. Congratulations to this year’s winners and all the finalists, and we look forward to helping these innovative companies grow and thrive in New York.”
Funding for the Grow-NY competition is provided through the Governor’s Upstate Revitalization Initiative. Administered by Cornell University, the competition requires that winners commit to operating in the Central New York, Finger Lakes or Southern Tier region for at least one year, committing to growing their innovative products and creating jobs in New York State. Grow-NY is a dedicated investment in the state’s food and agriculture industry, a central focus of all three winning URI regional plans. The success of the competition, now only in its second year, is paying off as evidenced by the fact that Soos Technology, and international startup, has committed to further developing and growing its business here.
This year, 264 companies applied to the competition including startups from 27 countries. In the U.S., 25 states were represented. 29 percent of applicants included a female founder and 32 percent included a founder from an underrepresented minority group. In early September, the applicants were narrowed down and the top 20 startups were chosen to proceed on to the pitch competition. Each finalist received dedicated mentorship from a hand-selected regional business advisor leading up to the pitch.
Soos Technology has developed AI-driven software that controls customized incubation cells that affect the sex development process in chicken embryos resulting in more functional female chickens that lay eggs. The patented technology mitigates the controversial practice of male-chick culling by transforming male chickens into egg-laying females using high-tech soundwaves and vibration – a noninvasive and nonchemical solution.
SoosTechnology CEO Yael Alter said, “With our Grow-NY prize money, we plan to create over twenty high-paying research and engineering jobs in the next two years, by building the NY Poultry Research Hub, which will connect academic research with poultry startups and corporates, to commercialize validated research. We are thrilled to put down roots in the Grow-NY region.”
Grow-NY leveraged leading-edge technology to bring together its finalists for a virtual Summit Nov. 17 and 18 that over 1500 people registered to attend. Competition finalists were able to share their business plans and answer questions from a panel of judges in front of an online audience; each received 10 minutes to share their pitch and 10 minutes for questions. In addition to the $1 million top prize, two $500,000 prizes and four $250,000 prizes were also awarded at today’s event.
The other awarded teams included:
$500,000 Winner: SoFresh, Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, manufactures a unique packaging material with an organic vapor to extend the shelf life of fresh foods such as bread, berries and cheese.
$500,000 Winner: Zetifi, New South Wales, Australia has developed technology that enables farmers to access fast and reliable connectivity across the entirety of their property through the design and manufacturing of ruggedized wireless network devices that solve connectivity problems in rural and remote areas.
$250,000 Winner: Candidus, Hull, Georgia, develops cost-effective supplemental lighting strategies and control systems for commercial greenhouse operations.
$250,000 Winner: Halomine, Ithaca, New York, has developed anti-microbial products to ensure the safety of our food supply.
$250,000 Winner: Leep Foods, Rochester, NY, grows premium organic mushrooms using regenerative soil methods on nutrient-enriched American hardwoods for consumers and restaurants.
$250,000 Winner: PureSpace, Busan, South Korea, produces a nanotechnology device that extends shelf-life and improves food safety by decomposing ethylene gas, airborne mold, and viruses effectively and efficiently.
Judges based award decisions on the following five criteria:
- Viability of Commercialization and Business Model – the potential for the entrant to generate revenue and maintain a cost structure that allows for a competitive and sustainable business, demonstrate technological readiness, or innovate to fulfill its value proposition;
- Customer Value – the degree to which the entrant is providing something for which customers are willing to pay, and addressing a substantial market;
- Food and Agriculture Innovation – the extent to which the entrant is pushing what’s considered state-of-the-art in the food and agriculture industries, and contributing to Upstate NY’s status as a global leader in innovation in these markets;
- Regional Job Creation – the potential for creating high-quality jobs in the Grow-NY footprint; and
- Team – the quality and completeness of the team and its readiness to deliver.
New this year, the competition also featured an “Audience Choice” award for the startup voted by the public to have the most innovative and promising pitch. Re-Nuble, from New York, NY, received $10,000 in cash and $5,000 in marketing services from The Martin Group. The inaugural Audience Choice award was sponsored by Wegmans.
“We had a diverse group of innovative entrepreneurs from around the world this year and the competition was fierce. The business plans we heard last week represented twenty ideas, any of which could transform the food, beverage and agriculture industry, and create opportunity in Upstate New York,” said Jenn Smith, Program Director of Grow-NY. “Congratulations to all of our competitors for advancing their plans and making connections in the Grow-NY region, and especially to this year’s winners.”
Empire State Development Acting Commissioner and CEO & Commissioner-designate Eric Gertler said, “Congratulations to Soos Technology, and to all of the cutting-edge winners and startups that participated in Round Two of the Grow-NY food and agriculture competition. Thanks to this mentoring program, forward-thinking businesses are continuing to join, and build, an Upstate ecosystem of innovation. These companies ensure New York is a leader within this important industry and fuel a positive economic impact throughout the Grow-NY regions and beyond.”
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “Congratulations to all of the winners of this second round of the Grow NY competition. Agriculture is a critical sector of the New York State economy, and this year has certainly shown us how important a strong food supply chain is to our communities. With support from Grow NY, these innovative businesses will now create cutting-edge technologies right here in New York that will support our farmers and food manufacturers, and grow the agricultural industry.”
Central New York Regional Economic Development Council Chair and President & CEO of the Manufacturers Association of Central New York Randy Wolken and Deborah Stanley, President of the State University of New York at Oswego said, “We are so pleased to offer many congratulations to all of today’s winners and to all who were part of Round Two of the Grow-NY contest. New York State continues to experience unprecedented growth in the agriculture and food industries. The Governor’s Grow-NY competition represents yet another exciting investment in our community that will further bolster regional job growth and further support our agricultural base throughout Central New York ensuring the region continues to rise.”
Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Co-Chairs Bob Duffy, President and CEO, Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce and Dr. Denise Battles, President of SUNY Geneseo said, “We are so incredibly proud of all who took part in Round Two of this innovative competition. The regional council is focused on growing the state’s agricultural and food industries. The investment in Governor Cuomo’s Grow-NY competition is working to connect local industry partners with the cutting-edge ideas of these entrepreneurs, further supporting our multi-pronged to create a thriving regional economy.”
Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council Co-Chairs Judy McKinney Cherry, Executive Director, Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development and Dr. Kevin Drumm, President of SUNY Broome Community College said, “We would like to offer our sincere congratulations to the winning teams and to all of the Round Two Grow-NY competitors. Innovation and entrepreneurship are key to our economic future. New York’s agriculture industry is one of the most diverse and prestigious in the world, and this initiative sets New York apart from other states, no doubt adding to our regions continued economic success.”
Applications for the next round of the competition will open on March 31, 2021 and the Grow-NY Summit is planned to be held next November in Syracuse, NY. To learn more about the competition visit https://www.grow-ny.com.
For additional information about the Cornell Center for Regional Economic Advancement, visit https://crea.cornell.edu.