Hort Americas has donated $10,000 to the AppHarvest Foundation to support its AgTech education program that introduces high school students to controlled environment agriculture (CEA) to help grow the next generation of Farmers + Futurists by teaching entrepreneurship and high-tech agriculture in hydroponic farm classrooms.
“We’re thankful to Hort Americas for supporting the development of a regional ecosystem with this AgTech Education Program investment for our communities, neighbors, and youth in Central Appalachia,” said AppHarvest Foundation Director and AppHarvest Vice President of Community Amy Samples. “Hort Americas was an early supporter of the AgTech Education Program, first by donating horticultural lights for the high-tech mobile greenhouse and now with a contribution to the AppHarvest Foundation. Their support of education and workforce development in this rapidly expanding sector benefits both youth and their local communities.”
Through a collaborative effort known as AppLit, Hort Americas and Current (formerly GE Current, a Daintree company) produce LED grow lights for AppHarvest at its manufacturing facility in Hendersonville, N.C. The AppHarvest projects helped create approximately 20 U.S. jobs.
“The work AppHarvest and the AppHarvest Foundation are doing to create an AgTech hub in Central Appalachia begins with education and is vital to the burgeoning CEA industry in the region,” said Hort Americas President Chris Higgins. “We hope our donation will help influence others to invest in and support the important mission of creating good jobs in Appalachia through more sustainable farming as it works on community and workforce development.”
AgTech education program
The AppHarvest Foundation AgTech Education Program supports hands-on agricultural programs at Appalachian high schools centered around farming operations in shipping containers retrofitted with high-tech equipment where students grow fresh salad greens to distribute to their classmates and those in need in their communities. The program’s AgTech curriculum focuses on topics such as high-tech hydroponic growing, supply chain and food production analysis, and an introduction to local food systems.
Since 2018, the AppHarvest Foundation and AppHarvest have opened nine AgTech classrooms in Central Kentucky at Carter G. Woodson Academy in Lexington and in Eastern Kentucky at Menifee County High School in Frenchburg; Madison Southern High School in Berea; Madison Central High School in Richmond; Breathitt High School in Jackson; Shelby Valley High School in Pikeville; Floyd County School of Innovation in Prestonsburg; Elliott County High School in Sandy Hook; and Rowan County Senior High School in Morehead, the site of AppHarvest’s flagship farm. The AppHarvest Foundation expects to launch three more by year-end.
In these facilities, student farmers can cultivate up to 5,000 plants at a time using a hydroponic growing system with efficient LED lights and a closed-loop irrigation system that is designed to use up to 90% less water than open-field agriculture without agricultural runoff.
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