STANFORD, Ky. (WTVQ) – Gov. Andy Beshear visited Tuesday the Kentucky Fresh Harvest facility in Lincoln County. In October 2020, Kentucky Fresh Harvest (KFH) officially opened the first high-tech vegetable greenhouse in the Bluegrass.
“The rich promise of agritech in Kentucky is on full display at Kentucky Fresh Harvest,” said Beshear. “Their scientific approach to growing vegetables in high-tech greenhouses shows us that some of the obstacles to the large-scale growing of food in some regions of Kentucky are no longer relevant. Emerging industries like agritech will feature prominently in Kentucky’s future job growth as long as we are bold enough to seize the opportunities when they arise.”
A ribbon-cutting ceremony last October marked the official opening of the Stanford greenhouse as well as the successful completion of Fresh Harvest’s pilot crop late in the year. The KFH team has been working through the winter as they prepare for the next steps in a plan to bring the future of farming to Kentucky.
“It was great to celebrate with everyone last year at the ribbon cutting,” said Shubin K. Saha, D.P.M., Ph.D, a doctor of plant medicine and former University of Kentucky professor currently serving as chief operating officer at KFH. “It was the moment I think we all needed, given the year we had just endured. But, if I’m being honest, the best moment for me was the next morning – everyone at the farm was ready to get back to work.”
Dr. Saha, who represents Kentucky businesses related to agriculture and agricultural technology on Gov. Beshear’s Agritech Advisory Council, says the visit from the Governor and Senior Advisor Rocky Adkins today was a welcome opportunity to discuss the direction of not just the farm in Stanford, but the industry as a whole.
“The science-based leadership coming from the Governor and his team on the COVID response has been a lifeline for everyone down here, including myself,” Dr. Saha said. “It’s that kind of leadership that gives me confidence the agritech initiative will continue to move forward in the same way.”
After their first crop, KFH made the strategic decision to spend several months fine-tuning irrigation and pest management programs, reviewing growth habit data on their unique tomato varieties and making upgrades to critical environmental control systems. As they prepare for the seeding of their second crop of smaller cherry and grape tomatoes later this month, KFH is poised to move into their full-scale production phase in 2021.
“This is a team effort,” said Trevor Terry, chief marketing communications officer at KFH, “It has been since the beginning.”
With a team of 34 full-time employees, Terry says KFH is a community business and that part of their responsibility is to build a community around the efforts of that team. “The brand we’re launching later this year is a celebration of the Kentucky spirit,” he said, “the people, the values and the work ethic that got us to this point. Brilliant is the small-batch bourbon of the vegetable world – we’ve built that attention to detail and respect for the craft Kentucky is known for into the brand, and we can’t wait to share that story.”
In June, as part of the Beshear administration’s effort to make Kentucky the agritech capital of the world, the Governor announced an international agreement with 16 other partner organizations, including the Dutch government. Also last summer, Gov. Beshear established the Governor’s AgriTech Advisory Council as part of his effort to make Kentucky a global leader in the agritech industry. The council includes leaders in state government and local government, education and the business and labor sectors in the commonwealth. Members convene periodically to meet with the Governor and advise him on matters relating to the agritech industry.
More information about Kentucky’s opportunities in the industry, success stories in Kentucky and the state’s unique assets that make it an ideal agritech hub can be found at https://agritech.ky.gov. The site lists a number of development programs offered by the Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy and the Cabinet for Economic Development and provides 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 agritech businesses, including loans, grants, tax credits, seed capital investments, matching state funds and export support.
In his Better Kentucky Budget, Gov. Beshear proposed the Emerging Industries Fund, which is designed to provide flexible resources targeted to Kentucky’s future economy and developing technologies in agritech. By incentivizing these sectors, Kentucky will be more prepared to succeed in the post-COVID economy.