Monday, May 24, 2010

Kentucky BioProcessing planning 50,000-square-foot addition

Kentucky BioProcessing LLC plans to double the size of its facility in MidAmerica Airpark this summer with the addition of a 50,000-square-foot "indoor growing facility" on the south side of the current building.

Cost of the project is estimated at $2 million.

"This shows that KBP is making the kind of progress that is making a real imprint on the bioprocessing industry," Nick Brake, president of the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp., said Monday.

"It's a pretty significant step in making Owensboro the world center of bioprocessing," he said.

The addition is a result of a $17.9 million "investment award" from the U.S. Department of Defense's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in March.

But Hugh Haydon, chairman of Owensboro-based KBP, said Monday that the "indoor growing facility" will be large enough to grow plants for several customers.

"We would anticipate making full use of the facility over an extended period of time," he said.

The long-term future of bioprocessing, Haydon said, will require that most plants be grown indoors.

The life cycle of one of the tobacco-like plants the company uses is from 30 to 40 days "from seed to harvest," he said.

That means several crops can be grown in the 50,000-square-foot building each year.

Haydon said he couldn't estimate how many plants can be grown at one time.

But he said sometimes one plant is grown in a 4-inch pot, "sometimes they're planted more densely than that."

A 50,000-square-foot building will hold a lot of 4-inch pots.

Brake said the move toward growing the plants indoors doesn't mean that there is no longer a role for area farmers in bioprocessing.

The future, he said, could see farmers building indoor growing facilities on their farms to grow crops for KBP.

KBP was created by Owensboro Medical Health System in early 2006 to buy the former Large Scale Biology biomanufacturing center in Owensboro. The then-8-year-old LSB plant had been shuttered in December 2005, just before the California-based company filed for bankruptcy protection.

KBP grows proteins for vaccines inside tobacco-like plants.

Haydon said there are "no specific plans" to add more jobs at the plant. "But this will set the stage for increased employment in the future," he said.

The company employs 17 people now.

Haydon said the "growing facility" is not technically a greenhouse. "It doesn't use outside light," he said.

The new construction, which he expects to have completed by fall, "will give the site a better appearance," Haydon said. "It's a one-story building. The outside will look nice, but inside it will be pretty basic."

The current facility at 3700 Airpark Drive has a 30,000-square-foot bioprocessing facility and offices and 20,000 square feet of greenhouses.

Keith Lawrence, 691-7301, 
klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com