AppHarvest today announced it has planted its first tomato crop at the company’s high-tech controlled environment agriculture facility in Morehead, Ky. The crop is scheduled to be harvested and available at leading U.S. grocery stores in early 2021.
The Morehead facility spans 2.76 million square feet, the equivalent of 45 football fields. It’s the first of a series of indoor farms designed to redefine American agriculture by growing non-GMO, chemical pesticide-free fruits and vegetables using 100% recycled rainwater at locations closer to the people eating them. From its base in Appalachia, AppHarvest can reach nearly 70% of Americans in less than a day’s drive. The company and its mission represent a stark change to the existing American food system, which is increasingly reliant on imports.
“Today is an important milestone for AppHarvest as we seek to build a more resilient American food system from within Appalachia,” said AppHarvest Founder & CEO Jonathan Webb. “Our team has built one of the world’s largest and most technologically advanced indoor farms, which means AppHarvest’s tomatoes soon will be on store shelves and in American homes. This is just the first step for us. To transform agriculture in America, we need to do this on a large scale, and we’re already taking steps to do just that with construction underway on two more facilities totaling about 75 acres of growing space.”
AppHarvest’s tomatoes are scheduled to be in grocery stores in the first quarter of 2021, and the company reaffirms its expectations to begin recognizing revenues at that time.
AppHarvest chose tomatoes as its first crop because more than 60% of America’s fresh tomatoes were imported in 2019, an increase of almost 50% over the past decade. By growing closer to where people eat, AppHarvest’s tomatoes will be picked at peak ripeness and delivered quickly to grocers. AppHarvest is providing Americans with tomatoes that are locally grown using only recycled rainwater and no chemical pesticides. AppHarvest’s worker-first philosophy also promotes fair labor practices.
In addition to the Morehead, Ky facility, AppHarvest is already building two additional high-tech controlled environment agriculture indoor farms. The first will be comparable in size to the company’s flagship operation in Morehead, Ky and is located outside Richmond, Ky. The third, located in Berea, Ky will be 15 acres and grow leafy greens. Why leafy greens? American production is concentrated in Arizona and California, which combine to produce 90% of U.S.-grown leafy greens. These states are in the midst of a decades-long drought and are consuming precious water resources. By contrast, Central Appalachia, where AppHarvest is investing in building controlled environment agriculture facilities, has an abundance of rain, so much so that the facilities can be operated on 100% recycled rainwater.