Dropcopter win $500k in inaugural Grow-NY business competition

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that RealEats America is the $1 million winner of the first year of the ground-breaking New York food and agriculture challenge known as Grow-NY.  Based out of Geneva, New York, RealEats was chosen following a two-day summit in Rochester during which the 17 selected finalists pitched their businesses to a live audience and panel of experienced judges for their share the prize money. The Grow-NY competition is focused on growing an enduring food and agriculture innovation cluster in Central New York, the Finger Lakes, and the Southern Tier regions of New York State. The competition, which will run for three rounds, offers a total of $3 million in funding to innovative, high-growth startups from across the globe focused on the food and agriculture industry. Funding for the Grow-NY competition is being provided through the Upstate Revitalization Initiatives connected with the three regions— CNY Rising, Finger Lakes Forward, and Southern Tier Soaring. Cornell University is administering the competition through its Center for Regional Economic Advancement. Grow-NY winners must commit to operating in the Central New York, Finger Lakes, or Southern Tier regions for at least one year. 

“I want to congratulate RealEats as the first recipient of the Grow-NY Competition,” Governor Cuomo said. “This targeted investment not only helps these dynamic companies establish themselves in New York State, but supports New York’s regional agricultural economy. RealEats represents the initiatives that will create a lasting economic impact on New York’s agribusiness.”

“The agricultural economy in New York continues to grow with increased investment in our farms and local products,” Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul said. “The first round of the Grow-NY Competition has been a success, and we are excited about the potential that these entrepreneurs have 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. I congratulate all of the finalists and winners of the competition, and we look forward to helping these innovative companies grow and thrive in New York.”

Nearly 200 food and agriculture startups from around the world applied for the competition this spring and the top 17 finalists moved forward in the competition. Those 17 startups were matched one-to-one with an experienced entrepreneur from the region who served as a mentor and helped each company plan a multi-day business development trip to the three regions. During these trips, the startups met with potential partners, customers, manufacturers, and producers and fine-tuned their plans for making a significant economic impact in the region.

Nearly 900 startups, companies, investors, resource providers, researchers, entrepreneurs, farmers, and students attended the two-day event which, in addition to the pitch competition, included an exhibition hall with over 70 food and agricultural exhibitors from New York State and a symposium with a series of panels that tackled some of the biggest opportunities and challenges facing the food and agriculture industry today. 

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 include:

$500,000 Winner Dropcopter

Syracuse, New York

$500,000 Winner – Tiliter

Munchen, Germany

$250,000 Winner – Capro-X

Ithaca, New York

$250,000 Winner – Combplex

Ithaca, New York

$250,000 Winner – The Perfect Granola

Victor, New York

$250,000 Winner – Whole Healthy Food

Ithaca, New York

Founder and CEO of RealEats Dan Wise said,“We are so thrilled to have won this prize money and are so thankful to New York State for this opportunity. With this prize, we will be able to leverage the amazing resources in the region to take our startup to the next level.”

The winners were chosen following today’s pitch event based 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.

In addition to prize money, funding for the competition supports all operational, promotional and implementation expenses including marketing, events, and the mentoring program that brings the finalists to the three regions, supports their development, and fosters connections to regional resources in the agriculture and food and innovation communities.

The Grow-NY winners will immediately get to work executing their business plans in the three regions, leveraging the connections they made during their business development trips and the support their mentors provided. Applications for the next round of the competition will open on April 1, 2020 and the Grow-NY Summit will be held on November 17-18th 2020 in Syracuse, New York.

Executive Director of Cornell’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement Tom Schryver said, “The Grow-NY competition exceeded every benchmark we set for this inaugural year and the Summit event is an unprecedented celebration of the vibrant food and ag innovation cluster growing in Upstate New York. The quality of the startup competitors was truly incredible and there is no doubt that this first year has showcased to the world that the Central NY, Finger Lakes, and Southern Tier regions are an outstanding place for food and ag innovation to thrive”. 

Empire State Development Acting Commissioner and President & CEO-designate Eric Gertler said, “Congratulations to all of today’s winners and to all who took part in the initial round of the Grow-NY competition. This latest business competition reflects New York State’s support for building entrepreneurial ecosystems that will now boost innovative economic growth in the rich farming and agricultural areas of the Finger Lakes, Central and Southern Tier regions.” 

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “We thank Governor Cuomo for this event, which encourages innovation and supports our agricultural industry partners. Congratulations to the winners and to all of the entrepreneurs who took part in this first-of-its kind competition to develop new ideas and products to help spur economic development and advance agribusiness in New York State.”

The Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Co-Chairs Dr. Anne Kress, President of Monroe Community College, and Bob Duffy, President and CEO, Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce said, “We are so proud of all who took part in 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 and further supports our multi-pronged approach laid out in the Finger Lakes Forward Upstate Revitalization Initiative that is working to create a thriving regional economy.’

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 pleased to offer many congratulations to all of today’s winners and to all who were part of round one 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.”

Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council Co-Chairs Harvey Stenger, President of Binghamton University, and Judy McKinney Cherry, Executive Director, Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development said,“Congratulations to the winning teams and to all of the round one Grow-NY competitors. New York’s agriculture industry is one of the most prestigious in the nation, and this initiative will not doubt add to our regions’ continued economic success. The Grow-NY competition enables innovative and competitive businesses and will further bolster our efforts to boost the regional economy helping the Southern Tier to soar.”

For more information about Grow-NY, click here.

Accelerating Finger Lakes Forward 

Today’s announcement complements “Finger Lakes Forward,” the region’s comprehensive blueprint to generate robust economic growth and community development. The State has already invested more than $6.1 billion in the region since 2012 to lay the groundwork for the plan – investing in key industries including photonics, agriculture and food production, and advanced manufacturing. Today, unemployment is down to the lowest levels since before the Great Recession; personal and corporate income taxes are down; and businesses are choosing places like Rochester, Batavia and Canandaigua as a destination to grow and invest in.

Now, the region is accelerating Finger Lakes Forward with a $500 million State investment through the Upstate Revitalization Initiative, announced by Governor Cuomo in December 2015. The State’s $500 million investment will incentivize private business to invest well over $2.5 billion – and the region’s plan, as submitted, projects up to 8,200 new jobs. More information is available here.

Accelerating CNY Rising

Today’s announcement complements “Central NY Rising,” the region’s comprehensive blueprint to generate robust economic growth and community development. The State has already invested more than $5.6 billion in the region since 2012 to lay the groundwork for the plan – capitalizing on global market opportunities, strengthening entrepreneurship and creating an inclusive economy. Today, unemployment is down to the lowest levels since before the Great Recession; personal and corporate income taxes are down; and businesses are choosing places like Syracuse, Oswego and Auburn as a destination to grow and invest in.

Now, the region is accelerating Central NY Rising with a $500 million State investment through the Upstate Revitalization Initiative, announced by Governor Cuomo in December 2015. The State’s $500 million investment will incentivize private business to invest well over $2.5 billion – and the region’s plan, as submitted, projects up to 5,900 new jobs. More information is available here.

Accelerating Southern Tier Soaring 

Today’s announcement complements Southern Tier Soaring the region’s comprehensive blueprint to generate robust economic growth and community development. The State has already invested more than $6.2 billion in the region since 2012 to lay for groundwork for the plan – attracting a talented workforce, growing business and driving innovation. Today, unemployment is down to the lowest levels since before the Great Recession; personal and corporate income taxes are down; and businesses are choosing places like Binghamton, Johnson City and Corning as a destination in which to grow and invest. Now, the region is accelerating Southern Tier Soaring with a $500 million State investment through the Upstate Revitalization Initiative, announced by Governor Cuomo in December 2015. The State’s $500 million investment will incentivize private business to invest well over $2.5 billion – and the region’s plan, as submitted, projects up to 10,200 new jobs. More information is available here.