BEREA, Ky. (WTVQ) — Capping a whirlwind seven days, AppHarvest officially broke ground Monday on its third high-tech controlled environment agriculture facility in Central Appalachia, this one to grow leafy greens.
Located in Berea, the farm, when complete, will be 15 acres.
The indoor facility will grow non-GMO, chemical pesticide-free leafy greens to be distributed to U.S. grocers and restaurants. The company’s other two facilities, one in Rowan County that already is in operation, and a second on which work has begun in Madison County, both cover about 60 acres and will grow tomatoes.
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.
American production is concentrated in Arizona and California, which combine to grow 90% of US-grown leafy greens.
These states are in the midst of a decades-long drought and are consuming precious water resources.
By contrast, Central Appalachia, where AppHarvest is investing in building controlled environment agriculture facilities, has an abundance of rain.
The facility in Berea, like AppHarvest’s other controlled environment agriculture facilities, will be designed to have its water needs met entirely by recycled rainwater using a closed-loop irrigation system where all water not absorbed by the plants is cleaned using sand and UV and then reused.
The facility will continue to expand AppHarvest’s growing space in Central Appalachia.
“With this facility, we will expand beyond vine crops to leafy greens, which face many of the same challenges in today’s broken food systems,” said AppHarvest Founder & CEO Jonathan Webb. “Leafy greens are grown almost exclusively in states with little water and then travel thousands of miles to most Americans. We’re working to create a more resilient American food system, and water usage is at the heart of the issue.”
Added Berea Mayor Bruce Fraley, “The city of Berea is thrilled to welcome AppHarvest to our community. Throughout the site selection process, it has become clear to me that Berea is a perfect fit for AppHarvest, and AppHarvest is a perfect fit for our city. We are very glad to be part of a truly revolutionary movement in AgTech.”
How is AppHarvest different from traditional agriculture companies?
– The company’s greenhouses are designed to reduce water usage 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. Among the signatories is Berea College, which is based in Berea, KY.
“AppHarvest is such a forward-looking business organization, and we think it surely belongs in one of the most forward-looking towns in Kentucky,” said Berea College President Lyle Roelofs. “We look forward to many learning and participation opportunities for the Berea College faculty and students who are involved in our great programs in agriculture, sustainability, business, and computer science.”
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 per share anchored by existing and new investors – including Fidelity Management & Research Company, LLC, Inclusive Capital, and Novus Capital Corporation.
Upon closing of the transaction, the combined company will be named AppHarvest and is expected to remain listed on Nasdaq under the ticker symbol APPH.
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.