MOREHEAD – The seven Kentucky universities that competed at the fourth annual Alltech Innovation Competition went above and beyond with their inspiring business plans for real-world issues on Saturday at Bluegrass Community and Technical College’s Newtown Pike campus.
Morehead State University’s undergraduate team and University of Louisville’s graduate team took home the top prizes of $10,000 apiece, the same amount with which Dr. Pearse Lyons founded Alltech, now a more than $2 billion company.
“The ventures presented today are a testament to the quality of education and high level of university talent in Kentucky,” said Suniti Mujumdar, manager of educational initiatives at Alltech. “These undergraduate and graduate students, guided by experienced advisors, applied classroom theory in creative, unique and thoughtful ways to benefit economies of the Commonwealth.
“The AIC is more than a competition; it is a form of experiential learning and a platform for career opportunities,” she continued. “We are honored to be involved with fostering entrepreneurship and showcasing the brilliance of students in Kentucky.”
Morehead State University presented a joint effort between their agriculture and business students with a team including Jordan Bach (Prestonsburg), Tessa Combs, Adam Lyon, Dalton Shepherd (Prestonsburg) and advisors Amy Poston Lentz and Dr. Janet Ratliff. The group captured first place in the undergraduate category with their company Pollination Solutions. The venture features “The Pollinizer,” a drone attachment designed to combat the effects of bee colony collapse by mimicking the natural process of honey bee pollination throughout an orchard. This man-made alternative to bee pollination addresses the threat of the declining bee population to fruit production in Kentucky, providing a sustainable “Presence for Better Pollination.”
“Morehead State University has a stake in this project,” said Lentz. “We have a 250 acre farm that has about 40 acres of apples, and we use honeybees to pollinate our apple crops. Each year for the past few years, we have lost some of our bees.”
The University of Louisville team, including students Tedd Pollard, Aaron Searcy, Dr. Sanjay Singh and advisor Suzanne Bergmeister, won in the graduate category with their company KYchen, a cooking oil management solutions business that reduces fresh oil consumption, increases consistency in food preparation and increases productivity in a safe, clean, efficient and eco-friendly way.
The winning teams’ competition included the University of Kentucky, Asbury University, Eastern Kentucky University, Western Kentucky University and the University of Pikeville. A majority of the ventures featured business plans that focused on the local market. This “by Kentucky, for Kentucky” innovation speaks to the dedication of the region’s brightest minds to improve their local communities and is especially important to Alltech as a Kentucky company with a primacy in science. Dr. Pearse Lyons, president and founder of Alltech, noted the importance of such entrepreneurial spirit.
“Never outgrow your curiosity—it’s the future of innovation and the tool of tomorrow,” he said. “Entrepreneurial business is exciting, and Kentucky needs entrepreneurs and business. I believe in, ‘Don’t get it right, get it going.’ And enjoy the journey.”
The Alltech Innovation Competition started in 2013 in Kentucky and Ireland, and challenges undergraduate and graduate university teams to develop forward-thinking business plans on innovative ideas in animal nutrition, crop science, food, and brewing and distilling that will improve local economies. This annual competition celebrates entrepreneurship and the impact of cross-functional teamwork on business development.