Sweet Pea in Rochester is among 20 finalists in competition for progressing agriculture upstate

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Plant-based kitchen Sweet Pea in Rochester is among 20 worldwide finalists in a competition to recognize businesses that have supported food production in upstate New York.

The Grow-NY Food and Agriculture Business Competition aims to drive innovation in food, beverage, and agriculture across 22 upstate counties. The winner must demonstrate that their business drives the state’s food economy forward.

Sweet Pea was chosen out of 385 total applicants. The kitchen on 777 Culver Road aims to create a path to wellness through its plant-based dishes and nutrition coaching. Some dishes include sweet potato with black beans, Middle Eastern wheatberry porridge, and carrot dog with mac salad.

Craft Cannery in Bergen, Genesee County was also chosen as a finalist. The facility manufactures signature sauces, dressings, oils, soups, and more. Craft Cannery is working on being certified as organic, according to its website.

This is the fourth year of the competition and $3 million in prize money is up for grabs. The top prize is $1 million, with the two runner-ups receiving $500,000. The 4th through 7th place businesses will receive $250,000.

Any business that uses upstate New York produce can apply, even if the business operates outside of the state or country. This year, businesses across 52 countries and 25 states applied. The State Agriculture Commissioner said this is the first time that the number of international applications, at 225, has surpassed applications within the U.S., at 160.

This year’s finalists include food or beverage businesses from Poland, Australia, Israel, and Canada. Across New York State, there were 92 entries.

A panel of 30 judges determined the top 20 finalists. The finalists will pitch their business plans at a Grow-NY Food and Agriculture Summit, on November 15 through 16, to determine which will become the winners.

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball said that, out of applications from New York state, 38% of applicants included a female founder. A record 75% included a founder from an underrepresented minority group.

“Through this agri-business focused competition, New York State continues its dedicated, focused efforts to support agriculture innovation that will create jobs and grow the Central New York, Finger Lakes, and Southern Tier economies,” Ball said.