Teams of students from Kentucky State University and the University of Pikeville won $10,000 each for their business plans at the Alltech Innovation Competition on Saturday at Bluegrass Community & Technical College's Newtown Campus in Lexington.
The Kentucky State University team, which entered the competition for the first time this year, won the undergraduate award for its aquaponics plan, and the University of Pikeville won the graduate competition for an herbal extraction plan.
The competition aims to encourage economic development and innovative ideas, as well as to identify possible future collaborators for Alltech.
"The event brings out the best," Pearse Lyons, president and founder of Alltech, said in a news release. "Young people find a way to do it, and both winning projects use products from Kentucky — yet not tobacco — to build two viable Kentucky businesses."
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The Kentucky State venture, Old Kentucky Home Aquatics, would build raceway systems — channels for growing fish — in established ponds. The systems "will provide for easier harvesting, higher stocking densities, better water quality and waste collection while controlling overfeeding," according to the release. "Floating rafts enable the incorporation of aquaponics, such as the growth of spinach and Bibb lettuce, using fish waste as a nutrient source." The business would support small-scale farmers.
Pikeville's plan, Rhizofeed, would harvest bloodroot in Eastern Kentucky and extract "whole rhizome for use in poultry feed to improve gut health," according to the release. The extract would be less expensive and more stable than probiotics, and the demand for poultry raised without antibiotics is growing, the students said. Their company would "further diversify Eastern Kentucky's regional economy while improving poultry production globally," according to the release.
Karl Dawson, chief scientific officer at Alltech, said the quality of the projects presented this year "was several magnitudes better than ever before."
The competition, which Alltech also runs among Irish universities, has been held for three years. The cash award is the same amount Lyons used to found Alltech.