3 Rochester start-ups compete for $1 million in Grow-NY competition

Local News

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Three startup companies in the region have been selected as top 20 finalists in the 2021 Grow-NY Food and Agriculture Competition. A $1 million prize is at stake for those in contention.

DraughtLab, We Radiate and Crystal Creek Organics — all based in Rochester — will have the chance to join a lengthy list of previous winners that are now globally recognized for leading agricultural innovation.

Grow-NY Program Director Jenn Smith says the goal of the competition is to identify companies that improve New York’s agriculture and food sector.

“We’re looking at regional impact: does your technology or your product create opportunity in the Grow-NY region, does it speak to the commodities within the region, [does it] have the potential to create jobs here?,” Smith said.

One of the finalists, DraughtLab, is a startup that helps companies like Roc Brewing Co. with sensory profiles of their products including taste and smell.

“The support we provide helps these other companies to get in touch with [product sensory profiles] and operate at a much higher level,” Matthew Conyer, CEO of DraughtLab said.

Access to sensory systems is usually very expensive and primarily used by large companies. But, making them accessible to local companies was important to the Rochester native.

Being in the competition’s top 20 selection helps support that goal.

“I started my business here and to know that we can be a part of something that’s going to help this area was really important, so we were thrilled,” Conyer said.

Another top 20 company selected is WeRadiate, which is aims to improve the health of farming soil.

“There’s a lot of policy behind water, there’s a lot of policy behind clean air, but there’s really very little behind clean soil,” Sashti Balasundaram, founder of WeRadiate said. “So, we thought [healthy soil] is not only something that’s legislatively needed, but also just entrepreneurially needed as well.”

The benefit to communities is that healthy soil creates healthy food and healthy communities.

Smith believes that hosting this competition is beneficial both for technological advancement along with the state’s economy.

“It really advances the conversation about what are the opportunities, what are the threats, how do we make the agrifood sector in New York State strong, viable, a leader for the state,” Smith said.

The competition’s grand prize is $1 million. Six other winners will be chosen as well to receive prizes of $500,000 and $250,000 .

The Grow-NY Summit, final round of competition, takes place on Nov. 16 and 17 at the Syracuse OnCenter.

The competition is supported by Empire State Development, Cornell University’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement.

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