Eastern Kentucky, home to AppHarvest’s first state-of-the-art, high-tech greenhouse, can expect to see over 300 new jobs created in the years ahead, following Wednesday’s unveiling of the agritech company’s 60-acre, 2.76 million-square-foot operation in Morehead.
Built with a $100 million-plus investment, AppHarvest’s first mega-greenhouse aims to grow 45 million pounds of tomatoes annually. Its target customers include grocery stores throughout the Eastern U.S. The operation uses digital monitoring, sun and LED lighting – the world’s largest LED lighting installation – and cutting-edge hydroponic, aboveground growing systems, including nonchemical growing practices. The first harvest could reach customers in early 2021.
AppHarvest announced earlier this week that its contractors broke ground on a second facility, located in Madison County, which will be comparable in size to the Morehead operation.
Kentucky’s proximity to key Midwest and Eastern Seaboard retail markets, and the quality of the region’s workforce were among the factors the company cited in its decision to locate in the commonwealth. Kentucky provides companies with a strategic advantage for rapid distribution of products. As the logistics center of the Eastern U.S., the commonwealth is located within 600 miles of two-thirds of the nation’s population. The state also is home to three global air-cargo hubs, with 20 interstates and controlled-access parkways, over 2,600 miles of freight rail and more than 1,900 miles of navigable waterways, ensuring businesses get products to market as quickly as possible.
AppHarvest trains employees in agronomy and agricultural science. Positions include management, human resources, logistics and picker/crop workers. The company aims to produce substantially greater yields than traditional field and low-tech greenhouses, which will allow the company to adjust for demand.
Prior to AppHarvest, Webb supported the U.S. Army Office of Energy Initiatives’ efforts with private financing and development of some of the largest solar projects in the Southeast U.S. He founded AppHarvest to provide a local, more logistically feasible option in response to U.S. produce imports from Mexico tripling over the past decade.
Kentucky’s food and beverage industry – a major segment of the state’s economy – proved itself a bright spot this year with 21 new location or expansion projects announced, totaling more than $566 million in planned investment with the potential to create 1,200 full-time jobs.