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Locate Finger Lakes Business Journal

Locate Finger Lakes Congratulates Geneva NY-based RealEats, Winner of Grow-NY Competition

Finger Lakes companies dominate inaugural state-sponsored challenge for food and agriculture startups

From left to right: Mike Nozzolio, Locate Chairman; Aliya LeeKong, RealEats Culinary Director; Kathy Hochul, New York Lieutenant Governor; Dan Wise, RealEats founder and CEO; Keith Lydon, RealEats VP of Operations; Eric Mozdy, GrowNY mentor to RealEats; Catharine Young, director of the Center of Excellence in Food and Agriculture at Cornell AgriTech.

From left to right: Mike Nozzolio, Locate Finger Lakes Chairman; Aliya LeeKong, RealEats Culinary Director; Kathy Hochul, New York Lieutenant Governor; Dan Wise, RealEats founder and CEO; Keith Lydon, RealEats VP of Operations; Eric Mozdy, Grow-NY mentor to RealEats; Catharine Young, director of the Center of Excellence in Food and Agriculture at Cornell AgriTech.

Locate Finger Lakes congratulates the Finger Lakes companies awarded funding in the inaugural Grow-NY food and agriculture competition.

Finger Lakes startups dominated the competition: five out of the seven finalists are based in the region.

RealEats logoRealEats, a food-tech company headquartered in Geneva, NY, was named the $1 million grand prize investment winner at the Grow-NY Food and Ag Summit held Nov. 12-13 in Rochester, NY. The event’s keynote speaker was Finger Lakes native and food business icon Danny Wegman, chairman of Wegmans.

Funded by Empire State Development, Grow-NY is a business competition and development program for high-growth food and agriculture startups. It aims to grow emerging food, beverage and agriculture companies in Central New York, the Finger Lakes, and the Southern Tier, collectively known as the Grow-NY region.

RealEats offers healthy meals made with locally-sourced ingredients from Finger Lakes farms. It topped nearly 200 startups from around the world that entered the competition.

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

The idea for the competition was initiated by Bill Strassburg, longtime vice president of Wegmans and a prominent Finger Lakes community leader. It was through Bill’s efforts that three Regional Economic Development Councils (Finger Lakes Forward, CNY Rising, and Southern Tier Soaring) joined together in a strong alliance to develop the competition.

“Grow-NY 2019 was a fabulous event and rave reviews for the Grow-NY Summit continue from many corners of the food ecosystem,” said Bill Strassburg. “The execution of the event was exemplary, especially given the short time to prepare. The pitches were presented flawlessly thanks to the mentors. The expo was well laid out and successfully helped people make connections. The seminars were timely topics covered by dynamic professionals and had phenomenal attendance.”

“The awards ceremony put a big bow on it all,” Strassburg continued. “There will surely be large dividends reaped from the Grow-NY initiative by the Grow-NY region companies, municipalities, institutions, entrepreneurs and in particular, Cornell. Everyone who participated is bound to be a winner. I can’t wait to experience Grow-NY 2020.”

Grow-NY is administered by Cornell University’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement.

“The Grow-NY competition exceeded every benchmark we set for this inaugural year and the Summit event served as an unprecedented celebration of the vibrant food and ag innovation cluster growing in Upstate New York,” said Tom Schryver, executive director of Cornell’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement. “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 a top place for food and ag innovation to thrive.”

RealEats’ Wise recognized the support of state and local partners that comprise the region’s growing food and agtech innovation ecosystem.

“It has been such an honor to collaborate with New York State, Ontario County, the City of Geneva, and Cornell AgriTech to begin building a healthier food future,” said Wise. “And, we’re just getting started.”

RealEats has benefited from the resources and support provided by Cornell AgriTech and the Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture, located in Geneva.

Four other companies in the Finger Lakes were named Grow-NY finalists and awarded $250,000 in funding. They are Ithaca NY-based Capro-X, Combplex and Whole Healthy Food, and Victor NY-based The Perfect Granola.

In addition to funding, all finalists received dedicated mentorship and were introduced to potential partners, customers, manufacturers and producers.

Grow-NY is an example of how public dollars can create more opportunities to grow startup companies in the region: in part, by helping to attract more private capital investment in these businesses.

Locate Finger Lakes recently profiled Upstate Capital Association of New York, which works to increase access to capital for entrepreneurs across Upstate NY. Noa Simons, its executive director, commented, “When public government entities can de-risk some of these early stage technologies, that’s very attractive to private investors.”

Applications for next year’s Grow-NY competition will open April 1, 2020. Stay tuned to grow-ny.com.

What can we learn from the success of RealEats and Grow-NY? That real food and agriculture innovation is grown in the Finger Lakes region.

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