A delegation of educators and advocates from Eastern Kentucky recently traveled to the Netherlands with officials from AppHarvest to learn about innovative agricultural techniques used in the country.
Dr. Greg Russell, dean of Morehead State's Elmer R. Smith College of Business and Technology, traveled to the Netherlands as part of the delegation from AppHarvest, an agriculture technology company that is currently building the world’s largest greenhouse in Morehead.
"I felt that with AppHarvest building a very large greenhouse in Morehead, it could be very beneficial to MSU faculty and staff to establish connections with AppHarvest management and to learn about the technology that will be used in the AppHarvest facility," Russell said. "Our delegation included industry partners, government partners and university partners. All who attended came away from the trip believing partnerships between industry/government/academic entities are possible."
The delegation visited multiple universities in the Netherlands, including Wageningen University, which is regarded as the top agricultural university in the world, as well as the University of Masstricht, HAS University of Applied Sciences, Fontys Venio University of Applied Sciences and Eindhoven University of Technology. The group also toured the research facilities of several of these universities along with several agricultural-focused innovation centers.
Russell said there are multiple ways MSU and AppHarvest can work together like universities and agricultural businesses in the Netherlands.
"For students, internship opportunities will be available at the AppHarvest facility. Additionally, AppHarvest is extremely interested in establishing research partnerships with MSU and with other Kentucky universities, thus providing opportunities for our faculty and students to participate in research projects. There are numerous academic disciplines on the MSU campus who could collaborate with AppHarvest, including agriculture, biology, business, computer science, and engineering. And graduates of those programs may find excellent opportunities at AppHarvest."
Josh Ball, assistant executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) and an MSU graduate, was also part of the group. He said he attended to learn how high-tech agricultural practices can be used to address several issues in Eastern Kentucky.
"SOAR has been working with the team at AppHarvest since Jonathan Webb brought the idea to Eastern Kentucky," Ball said. "As this project has moved forward, we have gained so much insight on high-tech agriculture and the role it plays in not only creating jobs but also addressing food security issues and providing a higher quality product for consumption."
MSU is also an East Kentucky partner in SOAR.