In the midst of concerns about Kentucky plant closings and job losses, Nicholasville-based Alltech is working to support young people who have ideas for creating jobs, particularly in Eastern Kentucky.
Teams from eight Kentucky universities competed at the Alltech Innovation Competition Saturday for $20,000 in seed money to help turn their business concepts into reality. This year's competition sought a business plan focused on innovation in the state's food and agriculture sector.
The winning students, from the University of Louisville, presented a business plan for Trifecta Cooking Equipment, a startup that is developing a deep fryer for the restaurant industry.
Trifecta says the patented fryer they are developing, FuturFry, uses an external heating design that could cut oil expenses by 40 percent and decrease energy usage by 20 percent.
The team of graduate students took home $10,000 in seed money, the same amount Alltech founder Pearse Lyons used to start Alltech, said Alltech spokeswoman Susanna Elliott.
Lyons said the market for the product, an estimated 8 million restaurants around the world, is what makes the concept a winner. Louisville is headquarters to a number of global restaurant chains.
"It wasn't about the oil or less energy. It's the possibility of us producing eight million fryers," Lyons, president and founder of Alltech, said in a news release. "It's a mechanical business that would be honing in on one of Kentucky's assets, which is food."
The second-place team, undergraduates from Morehead State University, took home $6,000 for presenting an idea for enriching pork with omega-3.
And in third place and receiving $4,000 was the University of Kentucky team of three graduate students representing Arymza Technologies. The company produces enzymes that speed up the processing of starch, which reduces energy costs. The simple sugars that result from the process can be used in food or to feed microbes in the production of bioethanol.
Additional teams from Asbury University, Eastern Kentucky University, Georgetown College, University of Pikeville and Western Kentucky University participated.
Last year, three teams competed, with UK putting forth the winning business plan for an idea to reclaim mountaintops with switchgrass for fuel.
Lyons also runs a sister competition in Ireland.