Post event recap: The Future of Food

Post event recap: The Future of Food

Over 100 people came together to celebrate the Future of Food on an apple farm and cidery outside of Rochester last week. Upstate Capital hosted its second event focused on agtech and food innovation at DeFisher Fruit Farm in Williamson, NY.

Attendees browsed the showcase of startup companies, and took tours of the apple orchard on a hay wagon led by farm owner, Dave DeFisher. In addition to growing fresh apples, the farm distills apple spirits and ferments hard cider under the name Rootstock Ciderworks.

The program was packed with investors and entrepreneurs dedicated to the food and agtech space. First, Mike Nozzolio, the co-leader on the Food and Beverage Industry Team at Harris Beach, and former Majority Whip of the New York State Senate, gave a regional overview of the ecosystem. Our hosts, father and son team, Dave and Luke DeFisher talked about being the 4th and 5th generation farming the land and technology on the farm through the ages. Next, Daniel Cross, Managing Director for Love Beets, talked about why the company chose Upstate New York for their US-based headquarters.

After a break, Alfonso Aguila took to the stage to give an investor’s perspective on the New York food and agtech industries. Alfonso is with Armory Square Ventures, a venture capital firm that has invested in tech-enabled food startups like BentoBox and Good Uncle. Next, Bill Strassburg, VP of Strategic Initiatives at Wegmans and partner of the NY Grow Competition, talked about his perspective on food and agtech in the region and innovation at Wegmans.

Finally, the audience heard quick pitches from five startup companies who are running businesses in the food and agtech sectors: Oratel Diagnostics, Sweet & Cute, Food Nerd, Antithesis Food and Evoke Healthy Foods. Oratel Diagnostics uses plant pigments to develop rapid, non-invasive and cost effective diagnostics tests for reproductive health in humans and animals. Sweet & Cute produces and retails a line of natural and organic coffee syrups and other treats. Food Nerd is a specialty food manufacturer with its headquarters in Buffalo, and specializes in 100% plant-based MEGA snacks that are designed to increase accessibility to nutrient-dense foods.  Antithesis Foods is a company led by food scientists that make healthy snack foods, like their signature treat Grabanzos. Evoke Healthy Foods makes a variety of healthy muesli cereals.

This event would not have been possible without the support of our partners and sponsors. Thank you to Wayne County IDA, 29 Design Studio, Harris Beach, NYS Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture, Farm Credit East, Central New York Business Journal and Wowwerks.