Two years ago, AppHarvest claimed that they plan to open a greenhouse in Eastern Kentucky and make it the agricultural capital of the country. The project has been delayed a couple of times, but the operators are proud to announce that they are finally starting it.
The Company Receives $82 Million Investment
The original plan was to build a 2 million square foot greenhouse in Pikeville. However, this idea changed after a couple of delays, and now the project will be launched, but this time, in Morehead. The company announced that they had secured enough money in investments to begin the construction.
The $82 million investment comes from Equilibrium Capital, which finally secured the company’s project and skyrocketed it. The people behind the project confirmed that the construction should begin this summer, and hopefully, the whole project will be finished by late 2020.
The Walker Company from Mount Sterling is already working hard at the site. The workers are trying to set the ground for the 2,7 million-square-foot greenhouse. The company intends to create nearly 300 job openings for the locals. They plan to grow mostly cucumbers and tomatoes in the greenhouse.
Although these investments are big news for Kentucky, the locals and officials both couldn’t deny scepticism they felt once the company abandoned the Pikeville idea. Especially since once the company had a few delays and lacked investments for some time.
AppHarvest did provide an explanation for this though; according to them, Pikeville simply wasn’t practical enough for the greenhouse construction. Jonathan Webb, the founder of AppHarvest, stated that it was very difficult after they had to move the project elsewhere.
Either way, now that the project was finally launched, the Kentucky officials are welcoming it with open arms. Mainly because some counties are facing a lot of difficulties with high unemployment rates.
The unemployment rate in Rowan County is 5%, but even so, it still scales better than the neighboring counties. Morgan County has an unemployment rate of 6.1%, while Menifee County has the highest one, 7.9%. Bath County is close with a 6.1% unemployment rate. Bob Helton, the director of Morehead and Rowan Economic Development, stated that given these defeating results, a company ready to open nearly 300 job opportunities is a huge deal.
According to some reports, Equilibrium has raised over a lot of money for multiple agricultural projects, and AppHarvest got around $84 million of that money. Although the chairman of the company, David Chen, did not want to give clear information on how much the company invested, he said that they were always interested in greenhouse projects.
Apart from Equilibrium, AppHarvest also received investments from other companies, such as the Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, led by Steve Case, the AOL co-founder, and J.D. Vance. The author of Hillbilly Elegy also fancied the project and decided to invest.
Webb claims that his primary goal is to give the locals the opportunity to fight the Mexican importers during the off-season. He wishes to provide other options next to that single one. Alison Davis, a UK professor of agricultural economics, claims that it won’t be easy for AppHarvest to achieve its goals. The market has been dictated by the Mexican importers for far too long, she explained.
Webb, however, hopes that this entire project will turn Eastern Kentucky into a regional giant that will produce the most food in the area. He says that his aim is not to push the locals off the shelf but only the competition from a few thousand miles away. He wants to invest in the local economy and help the locals break through.