Oct. 1 2021 04:24 PM

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

The information below has been supplied by dairy marketers and other industry organizations. It has not been edited, verified or endorsed by Hoard’s Dairyman.

Empire State Development and Cornell University Center for Regional Economic Advancement today announced that the startup company EmGenisys, led by co-founders Cara Wells and Russell Killingsworth, 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, which is a graduate of the Texas Tech University Innovation Hub Accelerator Program, is an ag tech company aiming to improve animal production with an embryo health diagnostic software.

EmGenisys founders 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.

To be selected as a Finalist at Grow-NY is incredible. We all know ag innovations, such as barbed wire and the cotton gin, have disrupted industries in the past, and Grow-NY champions the modern-day ag tech companies who will disrupt the future”

-Cara Wells, PhD

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. EmGenisys leaders believe they have developed something unique in their industry.

"Using artificial intelligence to provide an objective, noninvasive evaluation of embryo competence would be a tremendous advancement in the continually growing embryo transfer industry.

-Russell Killingsworth, DVM

”Embryo transfer (ET) is a routine breeding practice for in beef and dairy cattle as it allows producers to maximize genetic gains from superior animals, incorporate beef on dairy programs and provides a cheaper alternative to global animal export. Many credit ET for improving milk production per animal, as milk production has more than doubled since ET was developed for cattle in the 1970s. Skeptics are concerned that pregnancy rates of both in vitro produced and in vivo derived embryos are too low for routine use. At EmGenisys, we aim to improve pregnancy outcomes of embryo transfer through our embryo health diagnostic software. Our philosophy is simple, all pregnancies must begin with a healthy, viable embryo, so we developed a practical and affordable test to distinguish healthy embryos from inviable embryos. Over the past year, we have validated our technology and trained machine learning models to predict embryo health with video recordings of over 1500 embryos at Dr. Killingworths veterinary practice in Shamrock, TX. Use of this software to predict embryo health, viability, and sex can reduce the transfer of low quality or inviable embryos, thus improving pregnancy outcomes of bovine ET up to 20%.

"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 regions 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 regions leaders and resources
Networking introductions, business tours, and valuable appointments for finalist team representatives.
Cornell Universitys 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 CDCs recommended safety guidelines to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and the competition is prepared to make adjustments as needed. Registration is now available

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