A Kentucky native and University of Kentucky graduate, Jonathan Webb is turning his dream of a high-tech farming hub in Appalachia into reality with AppHarvest. The company is building some of the largest indoor farms in the world, 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 90% compared to a typical farm.
Why locate in Appalachia? Like every Kentuckian, Jonathan grew up knowing of the devastating job losses in the region. His grandmother grew up in Whitley County, where a coal mining accident killed his great-grandfather. Jonathan strives to work alongside the hard-working men and women of Eastern Kentucky and build an inclusive economy for the future. By locating within Appalachia, the company is also less than a day’s drive to more than two-thirds of the U.S. population. That lowers transportation costs by 75%, allowing AppHarvest's fresher produce to better compete against low-cost foreign imports.
Before founding AppHarvest, Jonathan worked with the U.S. Department of Defense on the largest solar project in the Southeastern United States. The project aimed to help achieve an Obama-era goal of ensuring the military’s hundreds of installations develop resilient on-site power generation and receive 20% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025. While living in Washington D.C. developing sustainable energy farms, Jonathan researched another type of farming — the Netherlands and its high-tech greenhouses that in a single acre yield as much as 10 outdoor acres and virtually eliminate the use of chemicals.
In February 2018, encouraged by investors, advisors including Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance, and politicians of both parties, Jonathan left Washington and came home to Kentucky, where he now works tirelessly to make the eastern part of the state the AgTech capital of America.
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"It is imperative that the area has economic diversification and attracts new investments form outside the state,"
AppHarvest is building some of America's largest greenhouses, combining conventional agriculture techniques with today’s technology to grow non-GMO, chemical-free produce. Our first greenhouse in Morehead, Kentucky, will span 60 acres and operate entirely on rainwater using a 10-acre retention pond. By choosing to farm this way, we are able to reduce water usage by 80%.
Our central location in Appalachia is within a day’s drive of 70% of the U.S. population, allowing us to reduce the amount of fuel consumed in transportation by 75%. And because of saved time and resources, we are able to maintain competitive pricing.
A region of spirit, perseverance, hard work, tenacity, ingenuity, and dedication.
Eastern Kentucky has experienced crippling economic decline due to war on coal. The unemployment rate is nearly double the national average. The East Kentucky workforce is rooted in Faith & Grit and it will persevere.
"We are planting seeds of innovation and hope in Eastern Kentucky with home-grown engineers, like AppHarvest, leading the way as we strive to bring Silicon Valley to Silicon HollerWe are developing a high-tech workforce for high-tech enterprise in the Appalachian region to elevate our competitive edge for jobs and economic development. The resiliency and sheer talent of our people are the very reasons why we are able to diversify our economy and advance incredible ideas, like these high-tech greenhouses, in one of the most rural parts of the country."
– Congressman Hal Rogers
“AppHarvest’s project will bring exciting, high-tech job opportunities to Eastern Kentucky. Rise of The Rest's investment into AppHarvest, a promising Eastern Kentucky AgTech startup, recognizes the immediate potential of Kentucky as a key player in the tech world. We are grateful for this investment by Rise of The Rest and look forward to continue working alongside Jonathan Webb and AppHarvest as they create new opportunities for Eastern Kentucky and beyond."
- Governor Matt Bevin
"This project will capitalize on increasing demand for US-grown produce, technical innovation, the opportunity to recapture market share from beyond our borders, and an available workforce. This is an exciting opportunity that could change the economic trajectory of the entire region for decades to come."
– Ryan Quarles, Commissioner of Agriculture