FRANKFORT, KY (STL.News) 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 today’s unveiling of the agritech company’s 60-acre, 2.76 million-square-foot operation in Morehead.
“We want Kentucky to emerge as a national leader in agritech, and this incredible high-tech greenhouse marks an important step in creating new jobs and setting up the commonwealth for a better future,” Gov. Andy Beshear said. “Like many around Morehead and throughout the state, I have looked forward to this announcement for some time. I am thrilled the facility is up and running and work on a second operation is already underway. I can’t wait to see what’s next for AppHarvest in Kentucky.”
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.
“We’re so proud to be working with our friends and neighbors right here in Eastern Kentucky to build America’s agtech capital in Central Appalachia,” said Jonathan Webb, founder and CEO of AppHarvest. “The people in our region have long powered America, and now we’re going to be working to feed the country.”
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.
Morehead Mayor Laura White-Brown said she appreciates the company’s efforts to integrate into the community.
“AppHarvest has united our community in many ways, from additional educational curriculum in high school to technical college to our university,” Mayor White-Brown said. “Teaching is at the core of investment when it comes to this agritech company. I have personally witnessed how involved they are with teaching mechanisms for students. They have provided a container farm at our county high school and are allowing for the university to connect Netherlands universities that are technologically advanced. This is just the beginning of what they are doing for our region and education.”
Rowan County Judge/Executive Harry Clark said AppHarvest immediately makes the area an industry leader.
“The region in which we reside is now designated as the world’s capital when it comes to the agritech industry. We have AppHarvest to thank and appreciate for this,” Judge/Executive Clark said. “This company has brought economic growth and sustainability to Eastern Kentucky. The employees are driven and consistently display passion at AppHarvest. It truly shows how successful this company will be.”
Bob Helton, executive director of the Morehead-Rowan County Economic Development Council, said he is glad to see AppHarvest is already building on its presence in Kentucky.
“Assisting AppHarvest to stand up in Rowan County and now starting to spread into other parts of Kentucky has been very exciting,” Helton said. “Becoming the epicenter for this new agritech industry certainly sets in motion strong growth models for our region and state into the future.”
In support of the project, the state in 2018 approved up to $1.9 million in assistance through the Economic Development Transportation Access (EDTA) Fund for the construction of a public access road at the Morehead location.
For more information on AppHarvest, visit AppHarvest.com.