Agtech startup AppHarvest this week announced a partnership with the Dutch government, the state of Kentucky, and several other organizations including universities to turn Appalachia into an “ag-tech epicenter,” according to the Louisville Courier Journal.
The partnership comes just as AppHarvest is building out its massive 2.76-million-square foot indoor farming facility in Morehead, KY that’s scheduled to open in Fall 2020. That facility will grow 45 million pounds of fresh produce each year, with an emphasis on tomatoes. The company says it expects to eventually deliver produce to not just grocery stores in Appalachia but also those in surrounding states that are within a day’s drive.
The AppHarvest facility will use hydroponics to vertically grow produce inside high-tech greenhouses. In addition to supplying more local produce to surrounding regions (as opposed from shipping that produce in from Canada or Mexico), the new facility will also create about 285 jobs encompassing everything from “head growers” all the way down to entry-level positions. The addition of those jobs is especially important to Appalachia — an area of the U.S. ravaged by persistent poverty.
The goal of the new partnership is to create even more jobs in addition to getting more locally grown food into surrounding regions. The agreement, signed yesterday by the different parties involved, will create a series of research programs as well as a “center of excellence” for agtech innovation.
Why The Netherlands? According to the Courier Journal, that country has spent decades building its own sustainable food supply chain through a network of more than 10,000 high-tech green houses. “The year-round, temperature-controlled farms have made the Netherlands the world’s second largest agricultural exporter and a leading ag innovator,” AppHarvest founder Jonathan Webb said at a press call cited by the Courier Journal.
The new partnership also includes participation from two higher education institutions in The Netherlands as well as Morehead State University, Berea College and Eastern Kentucky University, University of Kentucky and University of Pikeville.
AppHarvest closed an $11 million funding round in January, bringing the company’s total funding to $120 million.