MOREHEAD, Ky. — Sunday’s episode of “60 Minutes” will feature Eastern Kentucky high-tech agriculture company AppHarvest, which is building one of America’s largest greenhouses and launching a series of educational partnerships to turn the region into the country’s AgTech capital.
Reporters from “60 Minutes”, which airs at 7 p.m. Sunday on CBS, recently spent a week in Eastern Kentucky to learn about AppHarvest. The company will be featured as part of a segment on Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, which has invested in AppHarvest as part of its focus on working with entrepreneurs outside of Silicon Valley and other coastal tech hubs. The fund is managed by AOL Co-Founder Steve Case and best-selling author J.D. Vance and is backed by more than 30 iconic business leaders, including Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos and former Google Chairman Eric Schmidt.
From within Eastern Kentucky, the AppHarvest staff is working to build an AgTech ecosystem. Earlier this year, the company launched an agricultural entrepreneurs program at Pike County’s Shelby Valley High School. More than 80 students applied for the 33 available seats. “Our goal is to give students an opportunity to explore new careers, and this is a heck of an educational opportunity,” said Principal Gregory Napier. The students learn about cutting-edge farming techniques and operate a container farm, growing leafy greens such as red leaf lettuce, butterhead lettuce, romaine lettuce, salanova lettuce, wasabi arugula, kale, Swiss chard, and herbs including mint and basil. They have donated their harvests locally and will soon launch a salad bar in the school cafeteria.
AppHarvest is also working with the University of Pikeville to create a high-tech agriculture certificate program to prepare students for careers in the region’s burgeoning industry. As part of the work, UPIKE President Dr. Burton Webb has met with top political, agricultural and educational leaders in the Netherlands, which is the world’s second-largest agricultural exporter behind the United States despite a land area just similar in size to Eastern Kentucky. “With each step forward, AppHarvest is working to build an ecosystem that will sustain the future of the region,” said Dr. Webb. “As a university, we are committed to providing the skilled workforce necessary to maintain that momentum.”
The Netherlands has long used high-tech greenhouses as part of its controlled-environment agriculture industry, and AppHarvest has tapped into that knowledge for its forthcoming greenhouse in Morehead that will span 60 acres and grow non-GMO, chemical-free produce to be sold to the top 25 U.S. grocers.
AppHarvest is building some of America’s largest greenhouses, combining conventional agricultural techniques with today’s technology to grow non-GMO, chemical-free produce to be sold to the top 25 U.S. grocers. The company’s first greenhouse will span 60 acres and open in 2020 in Morehead, Ky. The greenhouse will operate entirely on rainwater using a 10-acre retention pond, reducing water usage by 80 percent compared to a typical farm. By starting the company from within Appalachia, AppHarvest benefits from being less than a day’s drive to more than two-thirds of the U.S. population. That lowers transportation costs by 75 percent, allowing fresher produce to compete against low-cost foreign imports.