Bringing prosperity to Eastern Kentucky through Agritech
In Eastern Kentucky, the evolution of America’s energy portfolio away from coal has crippled a region where it was once the economic backbone — decimating thousands of rural, underserved communities. Agritech is a promising opportunity that could replace the gap left by the coal industry. The world will require 70% more food by 2050, but our current food system isn’t sustainable.
The Prosperity through AgriTech Hub is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the entire Eastern Kentucky region by attracting thousands of well-paying agritech jobs and directing game-changing investment to one of the most coal-dependent and economically-depressed parts of the country. Five tightly-aligned projects will revolve around construction of an agritech R&D center, as well as ancillary business and educational opportunities.
Agritech Innovation Hub
The Kentucky Department of Education and Workforce Development and the University of Kentucky will lead the first major initiative of the EDA Build Back Better Initiative: Build the Agritech Innovation Hub.
The Agritech Innovation Hub will start with construction of the Agritech Research & Development facility — also known as the ARD Center. This will be a CEA research and development facility focused on sustainable agriculture methods.
The Agritech Innovation Hub will develop a program to be implemented at the ARD Center. The goals of the program will be to drive innovation of current agricultural technologies such as CEA production, storage improvements, waste management, and distribution. The project will foster an agritech launchpad for testing engineering, artificial intelligence, sensors, and robotics that will transform our nation’s food supply and contribute to food resiliency.
Industry and Job Growth
The Food Chain Global Startup Challenge will establish a global competition. The pitches will be ideas to develop technologies, processes, and solutions that sustainably produce, distribute, process, store, manage waste and ensure equity and access related to fresh foods in the Eastern Kentucky corridor. Startups will be eligible to receive a grant to implement their solutions in the region.
To funnel diverse financing options into the agritech sector in Eastern Kentucky, a Food Chain Venture Fund will be formed. The goal is to place seed investments in startups applying to the Food Chain Global Startup Challenge in Kentucky. Additionally, debt financing vehicles will be offered for startups that need it.
Talent development and retention
Live, work, grow
Investing in quality-of-life initiatives to invigorate coal communities reframes perception and establishes the region as a hub for Appalachian culture. SOAR will lead the final major initiative, which will serve as a point of pride for residents and a selling point for employers and companies considering locating an office in the area. As we work to create competitive jobs throughout distressed communities in Eastern Kentucky, it’s essential to create communities with strong economic development investments.
Appalachian Digital Training Center
SOAR will lead the effort to partner with regional training institutions — The University of Pikeville, EKCEP, and Martin County Public Library — to teach Eastern Kentucky’s workforce necessary digital skill sets through the Appalachian Digital Training Center. This will include training in fields such as software, cybersecurity, and coding.
People Ready Inclusive Communities Program Pilot
EKY Online! Initiative
SOAR and The University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service will teach basic digital literacy courses as a first step for upskilling the most tech-illiterate through the EKY Online! Initiative training program.
Let’s make it official
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