KENTUCKY (WFIE) - Gov. Andy Beshear announced Wednesday that his administration is working to build America’s AgriTech capital in Kentucky.
Actions taken by Gov. Beshear on Wednesday include signing an international agreement with 16 other partner organizations, including the Dutch government, that are committed to the same goal. The Governor also established an AgriTech Advisory Council to guide the commonwealth’s increased focus on this industry that will expand the state’s economy and create jobs for Kentuckians. He announced the state has launched a new website, Kentucky AgriTech: agritech.ky.gov.
International Agreement The international agreement group was brought together by AppHarvest, an innovative, certified B corporation which is creating one of the largest controlled environment agriculture facilities in the world. The agreement is committed to the creation of America's AgTech capital in Appalachia.
“In Kentucky, we’re going to reopen and rebuild our economy even stronger than it was before COVID-19,” said Gov. Beshear. “Partnerships like this one highlight our state’s 21st century leadership and limitless potential. I can’t wait to see the AgriTech industry continue to grow in Eastern Kentucky, led by AppHarvest and other companies that are reimagining the future of farming.”
“This long-term partnership will add jobs and create a new signature industry for our Appalachian region,” said AppHarvest founder and CEO Jonathan Webb. “It also demonstrates the kind of international cooperation that we need more of on the national level.”
The guiding agreement calls for a series of research programs, construction of a center of excellence and the building of additional private infrastructure similar to AppHarvest’s 2.76 million-square-foot farm that opens this fall in Morehead. As part of the agreement, the partners also commit to opening a Dutch representative office in Kentucky to spur investment in the state by Dutch companies, which are recognized as the world’s AgriTech leaders.
Kentucky’s central geographic location provides a huge advantage in AgriTech: AppHarvest’s tomatoes can reach 70% of Americans in a day’s drive. That means fresher food and far less food waste as grocers benefit from the extended shelf life. Growing fruits and vegetables closer to where people eat them also helps prevent the frustrating supply issues that COVID-19 continues to reveal, caused by America’s increasing reliance on agricultural imports.
After World War II, food shortages crippled the Netherlands, inspiring the nation’s leaders to invest in agricultural innovation and design a more resilient food system. The country is now the world’s second-largest agricultural exporter, even with a land mass just one-third the size of Kentucky. Dutch technology sees farmers grow up to 30 times more fruits and vegetables on a single acre indoors compared with a single acre outdoors, all the while reducing water usage by 90%. In the Netherlands, more than 10,000 companies support every aspect of the agricultural economy, and the nation’s leaders have graciously shared their extensive expertise as Gov. Beshear and AppHarvest seek to build an equally robust ecosystem in Appalachia.
Over the past two years, multiple delegations of Kentucky representatives have visited the Netherlands to meet with nearly 20 cutting-edge leaders in the agriculture industry. Top Dutch officials also travelled to Kentucky to meet with Gov. Beshear as well as higher education and economic development officials.
“We didn’t reach this agreement overnight,” said Gov. Beshear. “It is the result of years of preparation and international cooperation, and I couldn’t be more grateful that each of these partners worked together to make it possible. The world is starting to recognize something Kentuckians have seen all along: our Appalachian region’s remarkable promise.”
Signatories to the agreement include the following:
- Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature & Food Quality (LNV), Directorate International Affairs
- Commonwealth of Kentucky’s Office of the Governor
- Dutch AgriTech companies Dalsem, Signify, Certhon, Light4Food, Priva and Rijk Zwaan
- The Netherlands’ HAS University of Applied Science and Fontys University of Applied Sciences
- The University of Kentucky, Morehead State University, University of Pikeville, Eastern Kentucky University and Berea College
- Dutch public-private network organization NLWorks
Governor’s AgriTech Advisory Council As part of his continued push to make Kentucky a global leader in the AgriTech industry, Gov. Beshear Wednesday established the Governor’s AgriTech Advisory Council, which he will chair. The council will include leaders in state government and local government, education and the business and labor sectors in Kentucky. Members will convene periodically to meet with the Governor and advise him on matters relating to the AgriTech industry.
“Being the global leader in the AgriTech industry will not only make Kentucky’s farms more productive and efficient, but will also benefit every citizen and every region of the Commonwealth in creating industry and jobs,” Gov. Beshear said in creating the council.
- The Governor (chair)
- Kentucky Agricultural Commissioner
- Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Agriculture
- President of the Council on Postsecondary Education
- Secretary of the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet
- Secretary of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet
- Secretary of the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development
- Secretary of the Energy and Environment Cabinet
- Two presidents of Kentucky public universities, to be appointed by the Governor
- One city mayor of a city with a population of 50,000 or more people, to be appointed by the Governor
- One city mayor of a city with a population of fewer than 50,000 people, to be appointed by the Governor
- Two County Judge/Executives, to be appointed by the Governor
- President of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, to be appointed by the Governor
- Four members representing Kentucky businesses related to agriculture and agriculture technology, to be appointed by the Governor
- Two members representing Kentucky labor and trade, to be appointed by the Governor
Names of members of the advisory council will be forthcoming.
Kentucky AgriTech Website, Let’s Get Growing, agritech.ky.gov The website helps visitors learn about opportunities in the industry, success stories in Kentucky and the state’s unique assets that make it an ideal AgriTech hub. The site also lists a number of development programs offered by Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy and the Center for Economic Development. The site shares more information on Kentucky’s higher education institutions that offer research centers and academic departments in agriculture and engineering. Outlined on the site are several development programs to assist the AgriTech businesses. The programs include loans, grants, tax credits, seed capital investments, matching state funds and export support.