Startup building sustainable indoor farms in coal country with help from Martha Stewart

A man piling up containers carrying beefsteak tomatoes harvested from one of the indoor farms
AppHarvest

A leading applied technology company is building high-tech indoor farms to grow affordable and nutritious produce at scale.

AppHarvest recently delivered its first-ever harvest—Beefsteak tomatoes—to select national retailers such as Kroger, Publix, Walmart, Food City, and Meijer. The sustainably grown vegetable crops were gathered from the company’s 60-acre flagship indoor farm in Morehead, Kentucky.

These tomatoes are chemical pesticide-free, non-GMO, and grown using 100% recycled rainwater. They will be displayed in the produce aisle and are expected to be priced comparably to standard tomatoes.

AppHarvest focuses on building up economically suffering communities in former coal countries, like the Appalachian region. It plans to go public soon and has gained food entrepreneur and icon Martha Stewart as one of its board members.

“AppHarvest’s high-tech, sustainable approach is the future of food, and this first harvest allows us to provide consumers with chemical pesticide-free, nutrient-rich, flavorful produce that’s making a difference they can feel good about,” said Stewart in a press release.

Martha Stewart is one of AppHarvest's board members
AppHarvest

“I’ve been testing the early sample tomatoes, which are delicious, and I’m already looking forward to integrating them into my kitchen and recipes this year.”

The company is looking forward to building additional indoor farms to meet the rising demand for sustainably grown produce. Its Morehead facility alone is projected to yield about 45 million pounds of tomatoes a year from around 720,000 tomato plants.

Currently, AppHarvest has two more indoor farms under construction in Kentucky: a 60-plus acre facility outside Richmond and a 15-acre facility in Berea.

The company also plans to build more facilities across Kentucky and Central Appalachia, with the goal of having 12 farms up and running by the end of 2025.

AppHarvest's high-tech indoor farms
AppHarvest

These indoor farms are designed to use 90% less water and yield up to 30 times more produce than traditional open-field agriculture on the same size of land.

Its location in Appalachia is bound to bring a strong social impact to the area, especially since it’s experiencing economic distress.

AppHarvest’s products are also expected to reach about 70% of the U.S. population within a day’s drive. With this, the company will be able to deliver fresher fruits and vegetables while reducing diesel consumption required from transporting produce to the country from Mexico.

“As a mission-driven company that prioritizes Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) principles, this first harvest is monumental for our business, and we want to set a benchmark for the industry,” said AppHarvest founder and CEO, Jonathan Webb.

A woman inspecting beefsteak tomatoes grown in AppHarvest's indoor farms in Kentucky
AppHarvest

“We are determined to build a climate-resilient infrastructure to offer folks a delicious tomato that is sustainably grown right here in Appalachia with 100%recycled rainwater and zero chemical pesticides, making it better for both them and the environment.”

The company has also teamed up with eastern Kentucky high schools to introduce an agricultural tech curriculum.

They provided the schools with high-tech container farms in the form of retrofitted shipping containers so that students get the chance to grow their own food and learn about the importance of nutritious fruits and vegetables.

These high-tech indoor farms might just be the future of food! Share this story with your friends and family.

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