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Sweet Pea, Craft Cannery among 20 Grow-NY finalists

Two Rochester-area companies, Sweet Pea and Craft Cannery, are among 20 finalists in the fourth annual Grow-NY Food & Agriculture Competition.

The 20 finalists were announced Wednesday morning from among 390 entrants and will compete for the grand prize of $1 million. There also are two $500,000 prizes and four awards of $250,000.

Sweet Pea, headquartered on Culver Road in Rochester, is a plant-based kitchen that strives to harnesses the power of food as medicine.

Sweet Pea was founded by Mike Linehan with the goal of creating transformative paths to wellness by combining the benefits of its plant-centric food meal service with nutrition coaching.

Craft Cannery, operating in the Genesee County town of Bergen, takes recipes from the kitchen to the shelves of grocery stores, restaurants and farmer’s markets.

Founded by Paul Guglielmo, Craft Cannery specializes in the contract manufacturing of sauces, dressings, marinades, meat sauces, soups and meal-in-a-jar foods.

All Grow-NY finalists are paired with a mentor and will make their pitch in a Shark Tank-style presentation at the Food & Ag Summit in Syracuse on Nov. 15 and 16.

Since Grow-NY is an economic development program, eligible businesses must be in the formative stage and, if awarded a prize, must agree to operate in the Finger Lakes, Southern Tier or Central New York for at least one year. For businesses already located in New York, investments must be made in capital improvements, workforce or a research and development facility.

Of the 20 finalists, 11 are based in New York] and four others are from elsewhere in the United States (two in California, one each in Idaho and Massachusetts). There also are two from Poland and one each from Canada, Israel and Australia.

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Big interest exhibited in Grow-NY agricultural business competition

The inaugural Grow-NY agricultural business competition has attracted nearly 200 applications hoping to win start-up money to launch a venture in the Finger Lakes region.

The applicants are competing to be among the 20 finalists who will have a chance to pitch their businesses at a Grow-NY Food and Ag Summit Nov. 12-13, where prize winners will be named and $3 million in prizes will be awarded.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced the range of applicants earlier this week in the contest attempting to strengthen food, beverage and agricultural innovation in a 22-county region.

“The Grow-NY competition has attracted a group of diverse, innovative entrepreneurs who are ready to focus on finding new ways to further transform New York’s world-renowned food and agricultural industry,” Cuomo said. 

According to state officials, about half of the 199 applications came from entrepreneurs in New York. Twenty-three states were represented, with 13 projects being proposed from Massachusetts alone.

Most of the foreign applicants are from Canada and Israel, noted state officials, but applications also came from Europe, Central America, Africa and the Middle East. One entrepreneur is from New Zealand.

Nearly one-third of the applicants are women and 28 percent of the businesses were started by women.

Tom Schryver, executive director of Cornell University’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement, which is administrating the initiative, said, “Internally, we had established a target of 150 applicants to consider this stage a success, so to exceed that figure by nearly one third and to generate the broad geographic, gender and ethnic diversity we’re seeing on top of that it makes us all excited as to the prospects for this initiative and the impact it could have on our region.”

Each finalist will be invited to the area, which comprises the Finger Lakes, Syracuse, Rochester, Ithaca and Binghamton, and assigned a mentor to help them hone their pitches before presenting them at the summit.

Grow-NY is awarding one $1 million prize, two $500,000 prizes and four $250,000 prizes.

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