“This is the beginning of an agricultural revolution,” said Max Hammond of the role that hemp will play in the future of Kentucky agriculture.
Hammond, who was at the SOAR Summit in Pikeville to promote his company's farm device, the Hemp Hawk, reflects one side of the changing face of agriculture in Kentucky, with his focus on improving the production and efficiency of growing hemp and organic food crops. While looking back at traditional crops and traditional, non-chemical means of growing them, Hammond is also looking toward the future, and new ways to make old traditions viable.
The other face of Kentucky's agriculture future is reflected in AppHarvest. Using cutting edge technology that has been tested and proven in some fairly harsh grow environments, the company plans to take advantage of eastern Kentucky's abundant rainfall and sunlight – as well as the latest in hydroponic and artificial lighting technology – to produce tastier, cheaper, local produce year round. In addition to cutting shipping costs for produce imported from California and south of the border by producing their product in the communities where it will be sold, the company's ability to leave their product on the vine until fully ripened, rather than picking early for transport, should result in tastier tomatoes from the grocery. It could also help solve the problem of “food deserts” which plague many low income urban areas.
The company's focus on technology also means that, rather than suffering from the “brain drain” phenomenon that currently impacts Appalachia, students with an interest in computers, electrical engineering and food science will be able to finish school and find those high paying jobs in their own communities.
These are just two of the many industries featured at this year's SOAR Summit.