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CNY startups show off their eco-friendly strategies. One wins $250K

Two men stand next two each other while one leans on a “Grow-NY” finalist poster.
John Smith
Norwhey Brewing co-founders Trystan Sandvoss (left) and Samuel Alcaine celebrate their finalist position at Grow-NY 2022 in Syracuse.

A Central New York meal prep kitchen is celebrating a big win at a food and agricultural conference in Syracuse this week.

Rochester-based Sweet Pea earned a $250,000 prize for its sustainability efforts at the Grow-NY conference. The company was among 20 startups from across the globe that competed for $3 million in funding to expand their environmental solutions. Sweet Pea promotes a plant-based lifestyle with its pre-packaged meals in environmentally friendly packaging.

Grow-NY's Jenn Smith said the goal is to help novice companies expand their eco-friendly strategies.

"It's not a program directed at farms or small-scale food producers; it's directed at people who have technology or products that they're really ready to scale," Smith said.

Sweet Pea was one of two finalists from the Central New York region.

Ithaca's Norwhey Brewing had hoped its strategy to re-using the bi-product of New York's growing yogurt industry would have earned it a piece of the prize money. It came up just short, but Norwhey co-founder and CEO Samuel Alcaine said the company is already winning with its intoxicating approach to recycling whey, the liquid residue leftover from straining yogurt that many manufacturers do not use.

"We're capturing the natural electrolytes and vitamins and then converting all that lactose, that milk sugar, into alcohol," Alcaine said. "Filtering, flavoring it up with natural fruits, some of it from New York State, and then making this light refreshingly tart, hard Nordic seltzers."

Norwhey Brewing launched its seltzer in the spring and already has its beverages in Western New York Wegmans stores. Co-founder Trystan Sandvoss, a former goat farmer, said Norwhey's seltzers are better for the environment.

"Contributing to dairy sustainability in New York makes it a perfect fit for me, based on my background," Sandvoss said. "I'm very much enjoying being in this new space."

The prize money comes from the state's Regional Economic Development Councils. The $1 million grand prize winner was ProAgni from Australia.

A man and a woman are side to side as they stand beside chairs and Infront of a TV.
John Smith
Sweet Pea Plant team (L-R) Jenn Nguyen and Ryan Jennings attend the NY-Grow finalist conference.

John Smith has been waking up WAER listeners for a long time as our Local Co-Host of Morning Edition with timely news and information, working alongside student Sportscasters from the Newhouse School.