If you’ve followed recent news in the world of agriculture, you’ve likely heard the name AppHarvest. This fast-growing agtech company already appears to be transforming the future of agriculture and sustainable growing practices. After an impressive 2020, AppHarvest filed its IPO in February (NASDAQ: APPH) to much fanfare, netting $435 million in capital. The forecast looks sunny for AppHarvest, its investors, and a world in desperate need of more sustainable growing practices, more sustainable job creation, and decreased demands on the planet’s dwindling resources.
In this article, we’ll summarize a brief history of AppHarvest, including some of the most newsworthy developments in this now-publicly traded company.
Who Is AppHarvest?
Founded in 2017, AppHarvest took root while entrepreneur and Kentucky native Jonathan Webb worked in the solar energy industry. He discovered that while solar energy is promising, it didn’t provide the kind of lasting jobs and infrastructure he saw as essential for the future of sustainability. Seeking an opportunity that would meet these criteria, he found it in sustainable greenhouse agriculture.
By May 2019, AppHarvest had secured over $80 million in funding to build its first ultra-massive indoor farm, a 60-acre facility in Eastern Kentucky. The location was chosen not just because of Webb’s family connection— the area is strategically located in a region of high rainfall and within a day’s drive of two-thirds of the nation’s population, perfect for low-impact shipping of produce from farm to market.
AppHarvest now has more high-tech greenhouses in development, all of which will use software, AI, specialized sensors, humidity controls, and rainwater capture to reach a yield of 30 times that of traditional farming with 90% less water usage.
Here are some of the most recent updates out of AppHarvest in 2021.
AppHarvest’s Summer Replanting Completed
One of the most significant annual undertakings at its flagship facility is AppHarvest’s “Summer Refresh” replanting process. In September, they completed this process by planting nearly 750,000 tomato plants, which will reach maturity within the next couple of months.
AppHarvest’s current 60-acre farm can grow an estimated 40 million pounds of tomatoes per year, a figure that will quickly multiply as other farms become operational, and AppHarvest adds other crops to the mix.
AppHarvest’s Expanded Educational Outreach Program
AppHarvest has recently taken an active role in moving growing technology forward and in educating the next generation of innovators in the world of agtech. Their AgTech Educational Outreach Program places hydroponic systems on high school campuses across central Appalachia. They recently expanded the program by unveiling a new educational farm at Frederick Douglass High School in Lexington, Kentucky.
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear attended the unveiling event and spoke to the impact companies like AppHarvest can have on agriculture and local and regional economies.
“AppHarvest has been…putting education first by investing in our students’ potential, building a better Kentucky for all of our families with innovative new jobs and technology, and ensuring our state remains an agricultural leader through the next generation of farming and the next,” said Gov. Beshear.
AppHarvest’s Post-Wall Street Debut
AppHarvest made waves earlier this year when it became a publicly-traded company and debuted with better-than-expected figures. When asked why he felt going public was the best path forward, AppHarvest Founder Jonathan Webb said transparency was a motivating factor.
“We knew we wanted to bring transparency to agriculture from day one, and the best way to do that was to be a publicly-traded company and have the institutional rigor of operating at the highest level. What we’ve seen in the middle of COVID is that our country has massive food security issues. We’ve pushed most of our fruit and vegetable production out of the U.S. It’s being imported from Mexico almost 2,000 to 3,000 miles on a truck. We had multiple political leaders reaching out to us and expressing concerns. We can use technology, we can build infrastructure, we can grow fruit and vegetables with 90% less water, get 30 times more yield per acre, and get the harsh chemicals out. We can run completely on recycled rainwater.”
So what’s AppHarvest planning to do with all this capital?
“We’re going to build fast,” adds Webb. “We’ve built…a 2.8 million-square-foot facility that’s nearly 50 football fields under glass. Coming out of COVID, we’re ready to hit the ground running and build a network of farms by the end of 2025. We want to bring fruit and vegetable production back to the U.S. and put it indoors here in central Appalachia.”
Moving full speed ahead, AppHarvest has already broken ground and begun construction on more greenhouse-style farms in addition to their flagship farm. All locations are in the central Appalachian region of Kentucky, where rain is plentiful; five of Kentucky’s last twenty years have been their wettest on record.
Laila Azzahra is a professional writer and blogger that loves to write about technology, business, entertainment, science, and health.