AgTech Scientific plans to create 271 jobs at a new hemp-products development and manufacturing center in Paris, KY. The company will buy 10 acres and a 10-acre option in the Bourbon County Business Park to build a state-of-the-art, 50,000-square-foot facility, expected to open in 2018. AgTech’s $5 million-plus investment could grow in the future.
AgTech holds a conditionally approved 2018 grower license from the Kentucky Department of Agriculture Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program and intends to partner with Kentucky farmers for large scale hemp production. The company would then extract cannabidiol (CBD) from the locally grown hemp. CBD differs from THC, the intoxicant in marijuana. Initially, the facility would produce an energy drink incorporating a hemp additive and would later expand its product lineup.
In partnership with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, AgTech is researching potential health benefits of hemp-based additives for animal food. AgTech plans to eventually begin manufacturing pet and equine foods, among other products, contingent on changes to regulations.
The company chose Kentucky based on agricultural and manufacturing advantages, according to Mike French, founder and president of AgTech. Increasing hemp yield while reducing risk will be key to building trust in the agricultural community and eventually with consumers, he said.
“Kentucky at one point many years ago was responsible for the vast majority of industrial hemp production,” said French. “The growing conditions are excellent and it’s ideally located geographically and near largescale ‘pick-and-pack’ facilities like Amazon.
“We thought it best to cover the full spectrum, from seed to sale,” he continued. “The best way to do that is to work with the farmer. The state needs to replace tobacco as a cash crop, but growers are used to getting a price before they plant. The problem with industrial hemp has been there is not a known commodity price, or price for quality. We are going to work with Kentucky farmers and guarantee a net price per acre through our Kentucky Farmer Value Added Partnership (KFVAP). If farmers are successful, then AgTech will be successful.”
Founded by Canadian entrepreneurs in 2015, AgTech’s leaders spent the last several years planning and seeking the right location for their company. The opportunity to launch AgTech in a state where hemp has such a rich history in tandem with the state’s largest research institution also made Kentucky attractive.
“Our research partnership with the University of Kentucky will be very important,” explained French. “We’ve chosen to start with a three-year study, including actual testing, to better understand taste, effectiveness and overall benefits industrial hemp has for the equine industry and pets.”
To encourage the investment and job growth in the community, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority (KEDFA) in January preliminarily approved the company for tax incentives up to $2.4 million through the Kentucky Business Investment program. The performance-based incentive allows a company to keep a portion of its investment over the agreement term through corporate income tax credits and wage assessments by meeting job and investment targets.
In addition, AgTech can receive resources from the Kentucky Skills Network. Through the Kentucky Skills Network, companies can receive no-cost recruitment and job placement services, reduced-cost customized training and job training incentives. In fiscal year 2017, the Kentucky Skills Network provided training for more than 120,000 Kentuckians and 5,700 companies from a variety of industry sectors.
“AgTech’s plans for Bourbon County put the company at the forefront of realizing Kentucky’s potential as an international leader in hemp production,” said Gov. Matt Bevin. “The fact that their business plan includes groundbreaking research being performed at the University of Kentucky and mutually beneficial partnerships with our state’s farmers holds exciting possibilities for both industrial and agricultural hemp. This would not have been possible without last year’s efforts to better align state law with federal guidelines, which ensure hemp is grown and processed with the utmost transparency and under strict law enforcement supervision.”
AgTech’s approach to hemp creates intriguing possibilities for the company and the community, according to Paris Mayor Mike Thornton. “We are excited to partner with the state Economic Development Cabinet and Bourbon County Fiscal Court, to welcome AgTech Scientific to Paris and Bourbon County and look forward to helping them grow and build on their previous successes,” he said. “Their cutting-edge technology not only creates much needed employment opportunities but offers an exciting new process for industrial hemp that will surely be a huge benefit to our local farmers. With the cooperation of the University of Kentucky, I anticipate seeing great things from AgTech Scientific in the future.”
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