FRANKFORT, Ky. – Gov. Andy Beshear, co-principal officer of SOAR, announced today that his administration is keeping its promise 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.
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.”
Shaping Our Appalachian Region, Inc. (SOAR) has supported AppHarvest since its inception. Associate Executive Director Joshua Ball joined a delegation of leaders from economic development, government, and higher education on a week-long trip to the Netherlands touring universities and research facilities that specialize in high-tech agriculture. AppHarvest is a Grassroots partner of SOAR.
SOAR Executive Director Jared Arnett remembers when AppHarvest’s Jonathan Webb first shared his vision at the SOAR Summit.
“What happened today is a significant step towards the vision Jonathan laid out of Appalachia Kentucky being a leader in high-tech agriculture in America,” said Arnett. “This level of collaboration between two countries and our higher education partners demonstrates a level of commitment to grow this industry across Appalachia Kentucky.”
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.
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
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.