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Rev and Grow-NY Bring Food & Ag Innovators Together

Jenn Smith, Grow-NY Program Director, addresses the audience at the Food & Ag Networking@Rev event in April 2022.

Rev and Grow-NY Bring Food & Ag Innovators Together

Earlier this month (April 14, 2022), Rev: Ithaca Startup Works brought the local entrepreneurial community together for Food & Ag Networking@Rev: Eat, Drink, Innovate. The event celebrated food and agriculture startups in the Grow-NY region with pitches from tech innovators in these industries.  

“We’re so happy to bring this crowd together tonight to talk about startups and innovation, and food and agriculture,” said Jenn Smith, Grow-NY Program Director, in her opening remarks for the evening.  

Smith encouraged attendees to consider applying for the Grow-NY business competition, which awards $3 million in prize money to seven winners annually in addition to mentorship, training, and business development support.  

“We’re looking for early-stage startups from anywhere in the world to apply,” Smith said. “You don’t have to live here, you just have to make a persuasive case for how you’re going to positively impact the region. That could be job creation, that could be positively impacting the top and bottom line of our area growers or food producers, it could be partnership with a manufacturer.”  

The first speaker of the night was Diane Bailey, Executive Director of the Cornell Institute for Digital Agriculture (CIDA). CIDA aims to advance more equitable, and sustainable agriculture and food systems by promoting research and innovation.   

Bailey likened CIDA to startups, with founders, angel investors in the form of sponsorship from four colleges at Cornell, and venture capital from the provost. She discussed CIDA’s goals, which include fostering innovation.  

“We would like to partner more with folks that we’ve already been working with, which includes Rev and Grow-NY,” she said. “We’re thankful for the advice and the help that we’ve received, and we’d like to do more. We’d like to help our researchers move from the lab to market, or from the farm to market, with their ideas.” 

Following Bailey’s presentation, three food and agriculture startups, including two Rev member companies, Cayuga Genetics and Langhe Greenhaus, and one Cornell eLab alumni company, Flora Food and Beverage, pitched their startups:   

  • Cayuga Genetics: “I’m in the business of biofortification, which is making plants that are intrinsically more nutritious,” shared founder Owen Hoekenga. In order to address the $4 trillion strain that poor nutrition has on the global economy, Cayuga Genetics increases nutrients and essential vitamins in plants. These plants turn into healthier foods to better nourish people. Currently, Cayuga Genetics is looking to grow their team with experts in the areas of business and finance. 
  • Flora Food and Beverage: “There’s a major disconnect between kombucha and kombucha drinkers,” said Patrick Schulz, one of the founders of Flora Food and Beverage. “Kombucha drinkers are looking for a great tasting beverage that improves their health, but there’s a major problem with that because kombucha has too much sugar.” To solve this problem, Schulz and his co-founder, Apratim Jash, created a prebiotic spritzer as a healthier, sugarless alternative to kombucha. To help them roll out the product, Flora is currently looking to raise money.   
  • Langhe Greenhaus: “Our produce isn’t as flavorful, isn’t as nutritious, and it’s also subject to a lot of other issues of big supply chains in terms of food safety and availability,” Jake Holley of Langhe Greenhaus said. “Our solution to this is to produce food locally—hyperlocally, in everyone’s backyard.” The company’s easy-to-use greenhouse produces enough food to feed a family while saving water and reducing food waste. As current NSF I-Corps participants, the team is working on customer discovery to verify and improve their product.  

For the rest of the evening, attendees connected with one another over local food from Gola Osteria and learned about the resources the Grow-NY region has to offer food and agriculture startups.  

Continue celebrating local entrepreneurship at Networking@Rev: Better Together on Thursday, May 19! Join us to learn how programs and people in the Southern Tier collaborate to nurture startup innovation. RSVP here to reserve your spot now.