Ideas: natural resource that never wears out

In Lexington this week, scientists from all over the world listened to and delivered talks on an agricultural future that could include facial recognition of cows, drones that monitor crops and robots that tend them. They talked seriously, learnedly and imaginatively about how to solve the water and energy challenges we face globally.

They were all here, with about 3,000 attendees from 71 countries, for ONE: The Alltech Ideas Conference.

Alltech, the Nicholasville-based agriscience company started almost 40 years ago by Pearse Lyons, annually hosts a meeting for its far-flung employees and others on how to create, not just envision, a sustainable future.

As this year’s version demonstrates, Lexington and Central Kentucky benefit from the tourism revenue this event generates but also from the traffic in innovation, ideas and experimentation that it encourages.

As Kentucky’s second-largest city, a university town in the heart of an agricultural region, Lexington can only benefit when great minds come together to encourage technological innovation to improve how we produce our food.

Visitors for the conference also had an opportunity to experience the Bluegrass with tours, an early-morning race at Transylvania University and a craft brews and food fest (Alltech makes beer and ale, too) and a Kentucky night at the Horse Park.

In an era of political strife and widespread gloom about our future, one of the presenters, Ramez Naam, co-chair of Environment and Energy at Singularity University in Silicon Valley offered touted the power of human innovation, which he calls our greatest renewable resource.

“Ideas never get chipped, or dented, or worn down or broken,” he said. “Ideas are the only natural resource that we have more of over time.”

The talks will all be available online by mid-June. Anyone interested in listening to them, or following Alltech’s work, should visit Alltech’s Facebook page.

Thanks to Alltech for bringing this breath of fresh air to Kentucky.