On Thursday, October 19, Rev: Ithaca Startup Works convened food and agriculture enthusiasts from far and wide for Networking@Rev: The Future of Food and Ag, generating excitement for the upcoming Grow-NY Summit, Nov. 14-15 in Binghamton, New York. The event attracted over 100 attendees, including Grow-NY finalists and mentors, as well as members of the local entrepreneurial community.
Ken Rother, director of Rev: Ithaca Startup Works, kicked off the event with an opening address, followed by Jenn Smith, director of Food and Ag Innovation Programs at Cornell’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement (CREA), a division of Research and Innovation, who highlighted the Grow-NY Food and Agriculture Competition and introduced the evening’s keynote speaker, Cathy Young.
Young served for 20 years in the New York State Legislature representing western New York and is currently the executive director of the New York State Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture (CoE) at Cornell AgriTech, which utilizes the power of Cornell’s world class research and abundant resources to help startups scale and succeed.
“Our motto is push, pull, grow,” said Young. “You can imagine when I tell a company, ‘We’re going to push you, we’re going to pull you, we’re going to grow you,’ that it might sound a little painful. What we mean is that we’re pushing entrepreneurs to be able to scale up their operations.”
Young also discussed two new facilities at Cornell AgriTech: The Food Innovation Lab and the Fermentation Farming Lab. The Food Innovation Lab is a small-scale test kitchen where “one half of the room is devoted to cooking and baking equipment and the other half scientific equipment such as pH meters, water activity, and testing.”
The Fermentation Farming Lab conducts precision fermentation using technology, harnessing the power of fermentation to make novel foods and beverages.
Following Young, the event featured two pitches. Jonah Gershon ‘24, founder of spekld, was the first to take the stage. spekld is the first stick of brown butter, and Gershon’s innovation earned him a spot in the inaugural Northeastern Dairy Product Innovation Competition this past summer, as well as Cornell’s 2023-24 eLab cohort.
Allison Usavage, founder of Relays, followed, discussing the importance of storytelling in branding and how her startup ties its clients’ stories into strategy, visual identity design, implementation, and launch.
Guests capped off a successful evening of networking after the pitches over delicious, locally sourced fall foods and beverages provided by Word of Mouth Catering.