FRANKFORT, Ky. (July 6, 2020) — Gov. Andy Beshear last week announced the members of a new task force that will guide the administration in building America’s AgriTech capital in Kentucky. University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto is a member of that new group.
“AgriTech is the future of agriculture, and Kentucky is uniquely positioned to embrace and deliver on it,” Beshear said. “Being the global leader in the AgriTech industry not only will make Kentucky’s farms more productive and efficient, but also will benefit every citizen and every region of the commonwealth in creating industry and jobs.”
The governor issued an executive order establishing the AgriTech Advisory Council, which he will chair, and naming its initial members.
The representatives — drawn from farming, industry, education, labor and civic life — praised the governor’s initiative and the opportunities it presents for businesses and people across the commonwealth.
“The world is looking to Kentucky as a leader in the field, as the building of our controlled environment agriculture facility in Morehead has captivated onlookers from around the globe,” said Jonathan Webb, founder and chief executive officer of AppHarvest and a council member. “As one of the world’s largest structures, it’s creating a forward-thinking economy that’s focused on improving nutrition, using less of our precious natural resources and creating better, high-paying jobs. This task force provides the support of government and universities that is essential to creating the robust ecosystem we need to transform American agriculture.”
“I am very pleased to assist Gov. Beshear and the Commonwealth in this capacity as we advance AgriTech initiatives,” said Murray State University President Bob Jackson. “Kentucky is well-positioned to be highly successful in this area of economic development, and I look forward to advancing this important work.”
Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton, another council member, noted that AgriTech is as important to cities as it is to rural areas.
“I think Lexington and Kentucky have a rare combination of strengths that are attractive to entrepreneurs and business leaders in AgriTech,” said Gorton. “Through AgriTech we can bring good jobs to our state and support our next generation of farmers.”
Woodford County Judge-Executive James Kay said the initiative will provide a crucial economic and technological boost to Kentucky’s rural areas.
“I am ready to get to work for rural Kentucky as a voice for Kentucky’s farm families struggling with internet access. Farming is Kentucky’s future, and we need to expand rural broadband and ensure advancing technology reaches our rural communities, to help grow farm income, jobs and the next generation of farmers,” Kay said. “I appreciate Governor Beshear’s commitment to Kentucky farmers and our bedrock agriculture industry. Woodford County is working on many of the challenges facing our farmers and cattlemen, and I believe my service as vice chair of the House Agriculture Committee and as Woodford County judge will be valuable in the effort to chart the course for Kentucky’s future.”
Shubin Saha, chief operating officer at Kentucky Fresh Harvest said: “Governor Beshear’s advisory council represents an opportunity for Kentucky to shape the future of farming. It’s an honor to be chosen to serve alongside such prodigious Kentucky leaders dedicated to developing a vibrant and resilient food system in my home state.”
Beshear will serve as chairman of the AgriTech Advisory Council. The initial members include:
- Ryan Quarles, Kentucky commissioner of agriculture;
- Warren Beeler, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Agriculture Policy;
- Aaron Thompson, president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education;
- Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman, secretary of the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet;
- Mike Berry, secretary of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet;
- Larry Hayes, interim secretary of the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development;
- Rebecca Goodman, secretary of the Kentucky Energy and Environmental Cabinet;
- Eli Capilouto, president of the University of Kentucky;
- Robert L. (Bob) Jackson, president of Murray State University;
- M. Christopher Brown II, president of Kentucky State University;
- Linda Gorton, mayor of the Lexington-Fayette County Urban Government;
- Laura White-Brown, mayor of the City of Morehead;
- Mason Barnes, Simpson County judge executive;
- James Kay, Woodford County judge executive;
- Ashli Watts, president and chief executive officer of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce;
- Bill Finn, state director of the Kentucky State Building and Construction Trades Council, representing Kentucky labor and trade;
- Eric Gregory, president of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, representing Kentucky labor and trade;
- Mark Lyons, president and chief executive officer of Alltech, representing Kentucky businesses related to agriculture and agricultural technology;
- Jonathan Webb, founder and chief executive officer of AppHarvest, representing Kentucky businesses related to agriculture and agricultural technology;
- Shubin Saha, chief operating officer of Kentucky Fresh Harvest, representing Kentucky businesses related to agriculture and agricultural technology; and
- Trevor Claiborn, co-founder of Black Soil, representing Kentucky businesses related to agriculture and agricultural technology.
Last week, Beshear signed an international agreement with 16 other partner organizations, including the Dutch government, to grow Kentucky’s AgriTech footprint. The governor has established the AgriTech Advisory Council to guide the Commonwealth’s increased focus on this industry, which will expand the state’s economy and create jobs for Kentuckians.
The governor also announced the launch of a new website dedicated to the emerging industry: Kentucky AgriTech.