Robots, apps and investment are bringing new generation of farmers to the table

Hydroponics is upending the conventional approach to farming and the good news is that you don’t even have to get your hands dirty. The idea is that the water does the work on its own.

Investors forked over close to a billion dollars towards controlled-environment agriculture (CEA) from 2019 to 2020, Pitchbook Data reported. 

In an effort to bring jobs back to the impoverished Appalachia region of the US, the Morehead, Kentucky-based AppHarvest is banking on the next generation of farmers with its AgTech Educational Outreach Programme, focusing on young people who may not have previously considered working in agriculture.

“This is an opportunity to build a long-term career in a [sector] that's growing,” said Travis Parman, chief communications officer for AppHarvest. The five-year-old company also plans to open three new indoor hydroponic farms this year, while expanding its workforce from 500 employees to more than 1,000. Mr. Parman said that when people realize that they can actually farm using their phone or iPad with real robots and no dirt, agriculture takes on a whole new meaning.

“We have a robotics program as well, where we're doing some prototype testing with robotic harvesting,: Mr Parman said. "It's creating an ecosystem here so that we can really build a hub in the US for controlled-environment agriculture.”

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