Event Recap – Invest NY: Future of Food

Over 100 people gathered at the Culinary Institute of America on June 29 for Upstate Capital’s 5th annual Future of Food. The event was part of the Invest NY series, sponsored by NYSTAR and produced by Upstate Capital, designed to highlight innovation in various industries across New York. Upstate Capital connects investors with startups to facilitate access to capital for early-stage companies. NYSTAR, a division of Empire State Development, supports technology and innovation in manufacturing and industry.

Our sponsors and partners made the event possible, including NYSTAR, Hamilton Lane, 29 Design Studio, Cornell AgriTech, Grow New York, Think Dutchess, Farm Credit East, the Culinary Institute of America, and NY Ventures. 

To start the program, 14 founders innovating in the food and agtech space in New York gave quick, three-minute introductions of their companies to the audience of investors, entrepreneurs, professional advisors and support organization professionals. 

Following the introductions, guests were invited to tour the culinary school. The CIA Experience included a behind-the-scenes look into our world of food and  a Q&A session with current CIA students. After the tour, Mark Erickson, the CIA Provost, welcomed the audience to the Culinary Institute of America.

The program continued with a conversation about RealEats. RealEats was founded in 2017 with the mission to make it simple for anybody to enjoy real food. Five years later, the company has raised over $16 million and has over 100 workers in Upstate NY.  Investors include Hamilton Lane on behalf of the New York State Common Retirement Fund, global health and wellness brand GNC, Armory Square Ventures and Rochester-based Excell Partners. Erik Battes, President of Real Eats, Dominic Mammarella, Principal, Direct Equity / Co-Investment at Hamilton Lane, and Somak Chattopadhyay, Managing Director of Armory Square Ventures, spoke about how the investment came together and what’s next for the meal delivery startup. Jenn Smith, the director of Grow-NY, where RealEats won the $1M top prize, moderated the discussion.

Following the conversation, we were joined by Dwayne Zimmerman, who has founded multiple companies in the dairy services industry, including Power Automation Systems, Foremost Ag and Quantum Tek. He learned some tough lessons about the market and competitive dynamics and shared some of what he has learned in a conversation with Ed Maguire. Ed is a Business Development Specialist with the New York State Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture located at Cornell AgriTech in Geneva, NY.

Next, we welcomed Dan Hare. He founded Apis Wise, a company specializing in supply chain management for all kinds of manufacturing companies, with a specialty in food manufacturing. Their clients include Godiva, Sorrento, and Pepperidge Farm, among many others. Dan discussed the current supply chain dynamics and best practices for manufacturers. 

Finally, we welcomed Amy Wu of From Farms to Incubators, Jennifer Tegan of NY Ventures, Maureen Ballatori of 29 Design Studio and Anthony Colangelo of Farm Credit East. They spoke about what types of capital are available, trends in the food and agtech sector in New York, and different resources available for entrepreneurs.

To see the event photos, please click here.