Grow NY showcases cutting-edge ag tech

An Australian company that commercialized an antibiotic-free methane-reducing feed for cattle and sheep has won the top prize at this year’s Grow NY competition.

This competition is in its fourth year and is open to agribusiness startups under 7 years of age. But it quickly became a showcase for local and international companies eager to showcase cutting-edge ag technologies and set up shop in one of the nation’s largest ag regions.

The application process begins in the late fall and awards close in the fall.

ProAgni, the top winner, received $1 million. Two runners-up received $500,000 each, and four other companies received $250,000 each. Each company is paired with a business consultant and receives continuous business development training. In exchange, they must work for at least one year in the Grow NY region – which includes 22 counties in the Finger Lakes, Southern Tier and Central New York.

Food that reduces methane

ProAgni markets antibiotic-free feeds and supplements for cattle and sheep that help animals target weight faster and reduce methane emissions through better feed efficiency and performance.

“We have been able to bring this innovation and technology to market, and we have been able to implement it without problems and with very little friction, mainly because we do one thing and we do one thing well. And that is we add value or make farmers more. It is profitable to use our products,” said the company’s CEO and Founder Lachlan Campbell says the company came to New York in dairy production.

His Protected Forage is fed as part of the daily ration, accounting for 5% to 15% of total beef cattle. It is formulated with vitamins, minerals, probiotic extracts, bioactives and other ingredients that the company claims will maximize rumen health and reduce waste.

The company develops moisture resistant loose powders to complement existing food programs.

“It is similar to what the farmer is using. So we’re not asking farmers to do something they don’t know they’re doing, we’re basically just switching our bags for someone else’s bag,” said Warren Lee, the company’s commercial director, adding that better food intake and reduced methane production go hand in hand.

“At the end of the day, methane production is a byproduct of inefficient digestion,” Lee added. “So if we can make digestion more efficient, we can both increase food efficiency and reduce methane. It’s a little like fixing your car. If you fix the car, you spend less money on gas at the pump and the car pollutes less.” .

“There is a clear and well-understood relationship between feed efficiency and digestibility,” says Campbell, whose feed is being tested on feeders in Colorado.

He said the award will allow the company to distribute its products in New York and work closely with local business leaders and Cornell researchers.

Fruit sensor

Vivid Machines of Toronto, Canada, received a $250,000 award to continue development of a machine-mounted multispectral sensor that can walk through orchards and count fruit for preseason thinning and provide late-season yield forecasts, all in real time.

Jenny Lemieux, co-founder and CEO, said the multi-spectral Vivid XV sensor, designed by co-founder Jonathan Binas, can be mounted on any existing farm equipment. It travels through the fruit at a low speed – 5 mph – counting, in real time, the number and size of the fruit. It can cover 30 to 50 hectares per day, depending on the geographical location of the fruit.

Courtesy of Jenny Lemiuex

Sensor testing: The Vivid XV sensor, developed by Vivid Machines, underwent field testing last summer.

She says the sensor helps growers cut down time better, and they’ve achieved 90% accuracy in some gardens.

“Our purpose is to give. [growers] They may be manually processing the data they need to digest and plugging in growth rate models they’re using from some university,” says Lemieux. “So this is automating that set and providing that growth rate curve information.”

It can also be used for late-season production forecasting, which benefits packers to better manage contracts and supply chains. Lemieux said last season the sensors scanned trees two to five weeks before harvest with more than 90% accuracy, measuring the number of bins and bins per hectare. The goal is to provide production forecasts by July, she said.

The company is conducting research with Cornell AgriTech, using the sensor to detect powdery mildew and downy mildew.

Vivid Machines was founded in early 2021 and moved quickly. Last year was the company’s first full season testing the sensors in orchards. Lemiux says 2023 will be another trial year with 25 devices shipping in late April or early May.

If all goes well, Lemiuex expects the machines to be commercially available in 2024.

Courtesy of Jenny LemiuexVivid XV sensor

Versatile Sensor: The sensor can be mounted on any existing farm equipment. It travels through the fruit at a low speed – 5 mph – counting, in real time, the number and sizes of fruit. It can cover 30 to 50 hectares per day, depending on the geographical location of the fruit.

The rest of the winners were as follows.

Kraft Cannery, $500,000. Based in Bergen, NY, Craft Cannery specializes in canning, bringing recipes from the kitchen to grocery stores, restaurants, farmers markets and beyond, specializing in sauces, dressings, marinades and more.

Hempitecture, $500,000. Based in Ketchum, Idaho, this company makes insulation made from US-grown hemp fiber.

Labyrinth, $250,000. in Cambridge, Mass. Based, Laby’s AI-enabled optical sensor for raw milk inspection provides producers with instant insights.

Sweet pea plant-based kitchen, $250,000. Based in Rochester, NY, this company is a food service that specializes in plant-based foods.

Zalyant, $250,000. Zaliant’s Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence technologies deliver value to dairy farmers through improved decision-making and management. They offer two products: a calving monitor and a small bolus.

The $10,000 Listeners’ Choice Award went to Seneca Farms Biochar in Odessa, NY.

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