AppHarvest breaks ground on Madison County greenhouse

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MADISON COUNTY, Ky. (WTVQ) – What could be the mainstream of agriculture across the United States is starting here in Kentucky. AppHarvest broke ground on its second high-tech growing facility. The first is in Rowan County, the latest in Madison County.

“The world’s watching,” said Kentucky native, AppHarvest founder, and CEO, Jonathan Webb.

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60 acres will be transformed to grow vine crops all indoors and will be non-GMO and chemical pesticide-free. Bumblebees will be used for pollination. According to Webb the region’s biggest asset is water and recycled rainwater will be used to grow the plants.

“We use 90 percent less water than open-field agriculture and we get 30 times yield per acre,” said Webb.

Webb said the pandemic opened the eyes of the investors to food insecurity.

“We’re heavily relying on the imports from Mexico to the US, we’ve got to change that,” stated Webb.

Madison County Judge-Executive, Reagan Taylor, said this is great for the county and eastern Kentucky.

“I don’t think words can describe what this means for our community. You know, bringing over 300 jobs, growing the economy, giving opportunity,” said Taylor.

“Even an entry-level job here is going to make almost double minimum wage, full healthcare, paid time off,” added Webb. “Something that is virtually unheard of in agriculture.”

Life-long farmer Keith Parke said he was skeptical at first but now sees the impact it could have on Kentucky.

“It’s really going to put us on the map of the world as being able to feed, you know, millions of people food. Our state is very special, you know, it makes you be Kentucky proud,” said Parke.

Appharvest did not announce a timeline for when the facility will be operational but said it will likely compare to its first location in Morehead that is growing tomatoes. That project took about a year and a half to complete.

ORIGINAL STORY

MADISON COUNTY, Ky. (WTVQ) – AppHarvest has started construction on a second high-tech controlled environment agriculture facility in Central Appalachia, this one covering more than 60 acres in Madison County.

The indoor facility will grow non-GMO, chemical pesticide-free fruits and vegetables to be distributed to U.S. grocers and restaurants.

Because of the company’s strategic location in Appalachia, AppHarvest can reach nearly 70% of Americans in just a day’s drive, reducing transportation costs by up to 80% compared to existing growers in Mexico and the Southwestern U.S.

Located on nearly 250 acres, the facility will double AppHarvest’s growing space in Central Appalachia. AppHarvest will open its flagship farm — a 2.76-million-square-foot facility growing tomatoes — this month in nearby Morehead.

“It is an exciting day for Madison County. Over the past two years, the Madison County and AppHarvest teams have been focused on finding economic development opportunities that capitalize on our combination of hard-working people, central location, and agricultural history. Today is the result of that hard work and we couldn’t be happier,” Madison County Judge Executive Reagan Taylor said.

“We are excited to welcome AppHarvest to our community. The work in AgTech they are doing in Eastern Kentucky has generated excitement among our community schools and citizens. I look forward to forging partnerships with AppHarvest that will provide new outlets for our students to gain hands-on experience with the latest techniques in farming,” added Eastern Kentucky University President David McFaddin.

These two facilities will play a major role in AppHarvest’s efforts to establish itself as the leader in America’s AgTech space.

“This purchase brings us one step closer to our goal of establishing America’s next AgTech hub from right here in Appalachia,” said AppHarvest Founder & CEO Jonathan Webb.

How is AppHarvest different from traditional agriculture companies?
– The company’s greenhouses are designed to reduce water usage in growing by 90% compared to traditional open-field agriculture due to unique irrigation systems connected with large-scale rainwater retention ponds. The system is designed to eliminate harmful agricultural runoff, which contributes to toxic algae blooms.
– AppHarvest farms are located in water-rich Central Appalachia in contrast to much of America’s vegetable production that is concentrated in Arizona and California, states that continue to confront water scarcity and climate disruptions.
– Strong relationships with leading AgTech universities and companies in the Netherlands position AppHarvest as a leading applied technology agriculture company. The Netherlands has developed a significant high-tech greenhouse industry, becoming the world’s second-largest agricultural exporter despite having a land mass roughly equal in size to Eastern Kentucky. Earlier this year, AppHarvest led a landmark 17-organization agreement uniting Dutch and Kentucky governments, universities, and private companies, with all committing to building America’s AgTech capital from within Appalachia.

In just over two years, AppHarvest has attracted more than $150 million in investment into Central Appalachia and announced on September 29 a definitive agreement for a business combination with publicly-traded special purpose acquisition company Novus Capital Corporation.

The combination, which is expected to close late in the fourth quarter of 2020 or early in the first quarter of 2021, will provide $475 million of gross proceeds to the company, including $375 million fully committed common stock PIPE at $10.00 per share anchored by existing and new investors – including Fidelity Management & Research Company, LLC, Inclusive Capital, and Novus Capital Corporation.

AppHarvest’s investors include Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, Inclusive Capital Partners, Equilibrium, Narya Capital, Lupa Systems, Breyer Capital, and Endeavor Catalyst. Endeavor selected AppHarvest Founder & CEO Jonathan Webb as an Endeavor Entrepreneur in 2019.

Board members include food icon Martha Stewart, Narya Capital Co-Founder and Partner JD Vance, Impossible Foods Chief Financial Officer David Lee, and impact investor Jeff Ubben.