Startup company is one of 20 with a chance to win up to $1 million

WILLIAMSON, NY (SEPT. 15, 2021) Empire State Development and Cornell University’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement today announced that the startup company Agri-Trak, led by founder Jamie Sonneville, has been chosen among the top 20 finalists for Grow-NY, a food innovation and agriculture technology business challenge which attracts entrepreneurs from across the globe in seek of startup funding. The company, based in Pultneyville, NY, has developed a suite of software applications that were created specifically for the agriculture industry.

Agri-Trak founder will now join 19 other finalists from across the world in working over the next three months with mentors and competition organizers in Upstate New York to compete for $3 million in prize money. This includes a $1 million grand prize, which will be unveiled at the Grow-NY Food and Ag live pitch competition this November.

“I am thrilled to be named one of the twenty finalists in the Grow-NY competition and I remain dedicated to enhancing the efficiency of farms across the region.  I am also excited to influence the industry with the farm data points we collect as we will be able to provide data that was once difficult to obtain,” said Jamie Sonneville.

Grow-NY is an unprecedented business competition focused on enhancing the emerging food and agriculture innovation cluster currently present in the Finger Lakes, Central New York, and Southern Tier regions. In just three years, Grow-NY attracted nearly 800 completed applications around the world. This year, as the competition embarks on the third year of the multi-year program, there was a significant increase in applications since 2020’s competition. In fact, 330 startups applied from 32 countries including Singapore, Israel, and Switzerland. In the U.S., 23 states were represented, including 138 entries from New York. 44% of applicants included a female founder and 51% included a founder from an underrepresented minority group, which is a significant increase from last year’s applicant pool.

A panel of 30 independent judges, reflecting a depth and breadth of agriculture, food production, and entrepreneurial expertise, reviewed all the applications to determine the top 20 finalists that will pitch their business plans at the Grow-NY Food and Ag Summit this November. Today’s finalists were determined by a panel of 30 independent judges comprising the spectrum of food, beverage and agriculture businesses and academics. Grow-NY will award prize money to seven winners, all payable in stages and based on business milestones. This includes the $1 million top prize, two $500,000 prizes and four $250,000 prizes. Tax incentives will also be included.

Agri-Trak CEO, Jamie Sonneville, believes that she has developed something unique in the industry.  Sonneville says, “I believe Agri-Trak will save growers money and time, while at the same time increasing access to pertinent data for companies connected to the industry.  Our suite of applications provides growers and employees with the tools they need to make data-informed decisions while they are in the field.”

While Agri-Trak was created as a software service for small and medium sized fruit farms, Sonneville found that the needs of the agribusiness industry is much greater. In discussions with apple buyers, processing plants, and fruit packers, she found that individual farms typically operate non-collaboratively. While there is some expected level of uniqueness between the management of each operation, the Agri-Trak team found that the differences are vast. Sonneville notes, “this lack of standardization and sharing of data has prevented the industry from benefitting from true collaboration.” Agri-Trak believes that it will become a data warehouse for the agricultural industry, worldwide. They envision that farm operators and agribusinesses will use real-time industry data to make data-informed decisions and drive innovation.

“In our third year, Grow-NY has matured to become globally recognized, attracting best-in-class innovators and putting Upstate NY at the top of the list for food and ag startups worldwide. Each year Grow-NY breaks its own record for applications and having more startups – and a more diverse group of startup founders – apply, means that we are attracting international entrepreneurs, female founders, and minority-owned businesses,” said Jenn Smith, Program Director, Grow-NY. “With this positive evolution, one element that continues to grow is the strength of our region’s agrifood innovation ecosystem, and the incredible support the program and our finalists get from our Grow-NY Partner Group. We are humbled and grateful to work with such dedicated experts from industry, government, and academia.”

All finalists will receive:

  • Dedicated mentorship from a hand-selected business advisor;
  • Additional pitch training to hone their live pitches for the judges;
  • Business development support and workshops to connect them to potential partners and opportunities;
  • Introduction to the region’s leaders and resources;
  • Networking introductions, business tours, and valuable appointments for finalist team representatives.

Cornell University’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement is administering the competition and Empire State Development is providing funding for the Grow-NY competition through its Upstate Revitalization Initiative connected with the three regions – Central New York Rising, Finger Lakes Forward and Southern Tier Soaring.

The winner will be required to make a positive economic impact in the Grow-NY region which features counties within Central NY, the Finger Lakes, and the Southern Tier of New York State where there are vibrant farmlands as well as several major urban centers, including Rochester, Syracuse, Ithaca, Geneva, Corning, and Binghamton. The winning business will help contribute to job growth, connect with local industry partners, and contribute to a thriving economy.

The Grow-NY Food and Ag Summit, scheduled for Nov. 16 and 17, will be held in two formats simultaneously this year, both in-person and virtually. The in-person Summit event—where finalists will pitch their business ideas live in front of an audience and answer questions from a judging panel—will be held at the OnCenter in Syracuse. The event will align closely with the latest CDC’s recommended safety guidelines to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and the competition is prepared to make adjustments as needed.

To learn more about the other finalists, as well as the mentors, judges, and upcoming Grow-NY events, please visit http://grow-ny.com/.

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Image Cutline: Startup company Agri-Trak, based in Williamson, NY, is one of 20 finalists in the third installment of the Grow-NY food and beverage innovation and agriculture technology business challenge.

About Empire State Development

Empire State Development (ESD) promotes a vigorous and growing state economy, encourages business investment and job creation, and supports diverse, prosperous local economies across New York State through the efficient use of loans, grants, tax credits, real estate development, marketing and other forms of assistance. To learn more about ESD visit https://esd.ny.gov.

About the Cornell Center for Regional Economic Advancement

The Cornell Center for Regional Economic Advancement (CREA) supports economic growth in Upstate New York through entrepreneurship and innovation. We help people advance ideas that will create jobs in all fields in our region, to enrich the area’s economic diversity. To learn more, visit https://crea.cornell.edu.