How AppHarvest is bringing high-tech farming to Appalachia
We sat down to talk to Jonathan Webb about community, agriculture and is headquartered in Appalachia (Morehead, KY).
What is AppHarvest
Webb is turning his dream of a high-tech farming hub in Appalachia into reality with AppHarvest. The company, which has raised more than $100 million in funding, is building some of the largest indoor farms in the world, combining conventional agricultural techniques with today’s technology to grow non-GMO, chemical-free produce to be sold to the top 25 U.S. grocers.
The company’s first controlled-environment agriculture facility, spans 60 acres and opened 2020 in Morehead, KY. The greenhouse seems to be a monument to the grit of the people who inhabit our area.
In mid-January 2021, AppHarvest announced its first delivery of “Beefsteak tomatoes. These Appalachian grown tomatoes are chemical pesticide-free, non-GMO, and sustainably grown with 100% recycled rainwater. The crops will be distributed to Kroger, Publix, Walmart, Food City, and Meijer.
Jonathan Webb’s Connection to Appalachia
Webb is a Kentucky native and has connections to central Kentucky (Lexington) and Whitley County. After explaining his family’s connection to the coal mining industry, Webb shared,
“[I have] an affinity for the region and the eastern part of our state, and the tenacity and ingenuity that it’s taken to drive the coal industry for decades. It’s not really coal alone that’s powered this country; it’s the people of our region.”
Webb found that people tend to have a lot more common than differences while working in the wind and solar industry, and everyone’s needs tend to align. He explained that good jobs, access to a good education, and a path forward in life are all concerns everyone has.
Growth Towards a better future
“It’s critically important that we find common ground and build a future that is resilient in every way of the word,” stated Webb. He hopes that, together, we can build a future for families across the country based on resources that will be here for decades to come, and the process started with “one of the world’s largest indoor agriculture facilities.” The greenhouse is optimized with software, sensors, and lighting for maximum efficiency.
Webb reiterated that AppHarvest doesn’t intend to compete with local growers, but instead, they want to bring the production back to the US instead of growers who are 2000/3000 miles away from the market.
Two other AppHarvest facilities are underway. Mirroring the original facility, one 60 acre facility will reside in Richmond, Ky. While the 15-acre facility to grow leafy greens will be housed in Berea, Ky. The goal is to have 12 operational farms across Ky and central Appalachia by 2025.
AppHarvest’s Donation to God’s Pantry Food Bank