Kentucky can be a leader in innovation, Pearce Lyons, president and founder of Alltech, told a forum Thursday at the Western Kentucky University Center for Research and Development.
Lyons hosted the Innovation Forum in Bowling Green and hosts one in Pikeville on Friday.
Alltech is a privately held company headquartered in Nicholasville that provides natural, nutritional solutions to the food and feed industries in North America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region. It has a business presence in more than 120 counties and employs more than 5,000 people. It was founded by Lyons in 1980.
“People are starting to think creatively,” said Kentucky Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton of Bowling Green. She recently rolled out the Lt. Gov’s Entrepreneurial Challenge for high school students where students will give a pitch for a product. “We need to reach kids at an ever-young age to spark entrepreneurship.”
U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Bowling Green, said people need to go back to the “tried and true” methods in looking at business innovation.
“We trusted the spark of the individual,” he said.
Lyons had several Alltech employees highlight areas of the world where innovation is occurring. Jorge Arias, global director of aquaculture, said Grupo Lucci in Argentina has built a global company growing lemons, harvesting their seeds and their juice. Argentina is the No. 1 lemon production country in the world and Grupo Lucci’s operation in Tucuman, a rural area in northwest Argentina, produces 400,000 tons of lemons each year on 18,000 acres in groves.
“This is a high-tech company in a place where it’s not supposed to be,” Arias said.
Dr. Jud Chalkley of Lexington said Mexican meat producer SuKarne operates community health clinics that take in as much money as they spend, making them revenue-neutral.
“They desperately need innovation in medicine,” Chalkley said.
Over the past 20 years, SuKarne has established 53 clinics throughout Mexico providing laboratory tests, medical imaging and eyeglasses.
Karl Dawson, Alltech chief scientific officer, said the company is working in China to combine duckweed and algae to provide feed for aquaculture through a partnership with Ocean University of China. Alltech has partnerships with 10 different research partners in China, employing more than 50 scientists.
Innovation can also be closer to home.
Jim Potter, retired from the University of Kentucky Gatton School of Business, talked about how the moonshine business is booming in Gatlinburg, Tenn. Joe Baker of Old Smoky Distillery received the first license for moonshine production in Tennessee in 2009 and today his products line 12 rows at the Liquor Barn there.
That product is also shipped to 30 countries around the world and is seen on menus in restaurants and bars.
Lyons pointed to College Heights Brewery, a WKU-Alltech partnership, as another example of innovation.
College Heights Ale started rolling out in July.
“The ideas are everywhere,” Lyons said. “All it takes is implementation.”
— Follow business reporter Charles A. Mason on Twitter @BGDNbusiness or visit bgdailynews.com.