UK, WKU win Alltech Innovation awards

Participants in the 2017 Alltech Innovation Competition.
Participants in the 2017 Alltech Innovation Competition. Alltech staff photo

The University of Kentucky and Western Kentucky University won top prizes in the Alltech Innovation Competition 2017. The winning teams took home $10,000, the same amount with which Alltech’s founder started.

The Western undergraduate team, including students Taylor Wathen, Blake Knott and Zachary Wathen, and their advisors, Dawn Langkamp Bolton and Whitney Oliver Peake, captured the undergraduate first place prize with their venture Tech Gnar. The program and database suggests songs to users that are tailor-made to their musical interests. They are planning to launch their website and an app at the end of the year.

“This competition is great, because it shows that anyone can be an entrepreneur,” Taylor Wathen said, noting that neither she nor her team members are business majors. “We created this venture for the love of music.”

The UK graduate team, including students Fletcher Young and Zach Yonts, and their advisors, Mariam Gorjian and Warren O. Nash III, won the graduate first place prize with their venture Stillage Solutions. By using leftover stillage from the brewing and distilling process to produce activated carbon, the team hopes to develop a low-cost, high-quality and more environmentally friendly activated carbon product than what is currently developed using coal, coconut shells and wood.

“This is what it’s all about — disrupting the industry,” Young said. “With our venture, we can start small, because all of the products we need to begin can be found locally, and then we can expand.”

Alltech also awarded the Disruptor Award, to Bellarmine University’s undergraduate team for EcoCups, a biodegradable version of the K-cups used in automatic coffee machines.

“All of the unique ventures presented today reflect the high quality of education, teaching and entrepreneurial talent in Kentucky,” said Suniti Mujumdar, manager of educational engagement at Alltech. “These creative students have the spark to ignite meaningful change to economically benefit the Commonwealth.”

The Alltech Innovation Competition started in 2013 in Kentucky and Ireland to challenge university students to develop innovative ideas that will improve local economies and have the potential to change the world.

Linda Blackford: 859-231-1359, @lbblackford