EDA Build Back Better Regional Challenge

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.

Agritech Innovation Hub
The agritech industry can help Eastern Kentucky thrive.

Industry and Job Growth

UK Innovate and Render will lead the second major initiative of the EDA Build Back Better Initiative: Encourage new ideas and strategies and growing the agritech industry in the region.

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.

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.

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