ALBANY — Companies in Geneva and Victor are among 18 companies selected out of a field of nearly 200 startups to take part in round one of the Grow-NY food innovation and agriculture technology business challenge, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday.

The goal of the initiative is to enhance the emerging food, beverage and agriculture innovation cluster in the Finger Lakes, Central New York and Southern Tier economic development regions.

Cuomo’s office said the applicant pool represented 23 different states and 16 countries.

Named from Ontario County were Geneva’s RealEats America and Victor’s The Perfect Granola.

RealEats America provides ready-to-heat meals delivered to the door. The meals are manufactured at its space at the Geneva Enterprise Development Center, where the company is undergoing an expansion that will eventually add up to 400 new jobs.

“The RealEats team is super excited to be selected as a finalist in the Grow-NY Food and Agriculture Business Competition,” said company founder Dan Wise. “We’re proud to be building a healthier food future from upstate New York and grateful to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Grow-NY for this opportunity.”

The Perfect Granola makes granola bars and bags.

“The Grow-NY competition has attracted a group of diverse, innovative entrepreneurs who are ready to focus on finding new ways to further transform New York State’s world-renowned food and agricultural industry,” Cuomo said. “Through efforts like Grow-NY we are continuing to bolster these regional economies and foster statewide growth in this critical industry.”

The competition runs for an additional two rounds and will award $3 million in prize money each round to seven winners, all payable in stages, based on business milestones. This includes a $1 million top prize, two $500,000 prizes and four $250,000 in prizes. The winners will have to commit to operating in the targeted regions for at least one year and will have to agree to participate in an equity-share program.

The other finalists include AgVoice, Norcross, Georgia; Capro-X, Ithaca; Combplex, Ithaca; Dropcopter, Syracuse; Halomine, Ithaca; Whole Healthy Food, Ithaca; Livestock Water Recycling, Alberta, Canada; Nuravine, New York City; Paragon Pure, Princeton, New Jersey; Radical Plastics, Beverly, Massachusetts; Re-Nuble, Rochester; Simply Good Jars, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Slate Craft Goods, Westwood, Massachusetts; Tiliter, Munich, Germany; and Varcode, Naperville, Illinois.

Cuomo’s office said each startup finalist has been assigned a mentor to help them make connections in the region, plan regional business trips and refine their business pitches. The finalists will pitch their ideas to a panel of Grow-NY judges and a live audience Nov. 12 to 13 at the Grow-NY Food and Ag Summit at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center. Cornell University is administering the competition through its Center for Regional Economic Advancement.

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