By Jordan Strickler
Morehead, Ky. – Culinary and lifestyle icon Martha Stewart, best-selling author J.D. Vance and Impossible Foods Chief Financial Officer David Lee will be joining the board of directors for the Kentucky-based high-tech greenhouse company AppHarvest. The company is preparing to open one of the world’s largest indoor farms this fall in the Eastern Kentucky city of Morehead.
“The future of food will be, has to be, growing nutrient-rich and delicious produce closer to where we eat,” Stewart said. “That means food that tastes better and food that we feel better about consuming. AppHarvest is driving us toward that future and working from within Appalachia to elevate the region.”
The company currently operates a 2.76-million-square-foot controlled environment agriculture facility which has already created 100 construction jobs and will create more than 300 full-time permanent jobs for residents of Eastern Kentucky, where 44 percent more residents are unemployed than the national average.
According to AppHarvest, Eastern Kentucky makes an ideal location for their indoor fruit and vegetable greenhouses since their products can reach 70 percent of the American population in a single day’s drive. Company representatives say that the central location will create a more resilient food system, an issue which was thrust into center stage during the coronavirus pandemic.
“The last few months have taught us that our food system is a little more precarious than we realized,” Vance explained. “AppHarvest will change that, and it will do so by building a sustainable, durable business in Appalachia, and investing in the people who call it home.”
High-tech greenhouses are becoming a larger player in agriculture since they reduce the need for acreage, reduce the use of pesticides and lessen fuel used in shipping. AppHarvest said the facility will be the first of its size that will rely entirely on recycled rainwater for all water needs. The company also said that the closed-loop water system eliminates agricultural runoff common in open-field agriculture, which is critical as the nation ramps up efforts to secure food systems that can withstand health and climate disruptions.
“It’s time for agriculture in America to change,” said AppHarvest Founder & CEO Jonathan Webb. “The pandemic has demonstrated the need to establish more resilient food systems, and our work is on the forefront of that effort. Eastern Kentucky, with its central U.S. location, provides the perfect place to build AppHarvest’s indoor farms while also providing much needed jobs to a ready workforce.”
AppHarvest’s board and staff additions come as the company closes its $28 million Series C funding round. Combined with the company’s prior funding rounds, including project financing, AppHarvest has attracted more than $150 million in investment in just over two years.