AppHarvest to locate high-tech greenhouse in Pikeville, creating 140 jobs on reclaimed mine site
Kentucky Press News Service
FRANKFORT – Agricultural startup AppHarvest plans to build a $50 million high-tech greenhouse, creating 140 full-time jobs in Pikeville at a former surface coal mine repurposed for new industry, Gov. Matt Bevin announced Thursday.
“AppHarvest’s project will bring exciting, high-tech job opportunities to Eastern Kentucky,” Bevin said in a statement. “Our administration is dedicated to increasing economic opportunity across Kentucky, and this project presents a fantastic opportunity to help our Appalachian region continue its rejuvenation. We intend to make Kentucky the engineering and manufacturing center of excellence in America, and job growth in Eastern Kentucky will be a key part of our success.”
Targeted for a 60-acre site, AppHarvest’s 2 million square-foot greenhouse will rank among the world’s largest, a state news release said. There, the company plans to grow fresh vegetables year round for consumption in the U.S. Northeast, Southeast and Midwest. The operation will grow a variety of produce with a focus on cherry tomatoes and bell peppers. The high-tech facility will feature computerized monitoring and cutting-edge hydroponic, above-ground growing systems.
AppHarvest Founder and CEO Jonathan Webb cited Pikeville’s proximity to retail markets, quality of the regional workforce and opportunities created as the coal industry transitions as reasons for locating in Eastern Kentucky.
“The spirit of the region is unmatched and we want to work alongside those hardworking men and women,” Webb said. “Appalachia, let’s grow veggies, let’s do work!”
Building near its markets will significantly reduce shipping costs, Webb said, and also lower costs for consumers. As a gateway between the Midwest and South, Kentucky’s boarders lie within a day’s drive of 65 percent of the U.S. population and income. That continues to make the commonwealth a major draw for logistics-intensive companies.
Webb has supported U.S. Army Office of Energy Initiatives’ efforts with private financing and development of some of the largest solar projects in the Southeast. He recently founded AppHarvest to provide a local, more logistically feasible option in response to US produce imports from Mexico tripling over the past decade.
AppHarvest employees will be trained in agronomy and agricultural science. Positions include management, human resources, logistics and picker/crop worker. Webb said he expects greenhouse construction to begin in June.
The company’s greenhouse environment will provide dramatic yield increases versus traditional field and low-tech greenhouse operations and allow it to adjust to customers’ needs and demands, as well as provide a longer shelf life for produce.
Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said AppHarvest’s project stands to benefit the state on multiple fronts.
“Agriculture is economic development, and this facility would bring much-needed investment and jobs to Eastern Kentucky,” Quarles said. “This project would capitalize on increasing demand for U.S.-grown produce, technical innovation, the opportunity to recapture market share from beyond our borders, and an available workforce. This is an exciting opportunity that could change the economic trajectory of the entire region for decades to come.”
Sen. Ray Jones, of Pikeville, said Eastern Kentucky has a workforce ready for new opportunities and that AppHarvest will be a great fit.
“Eastern Kentucky is continually seeking ways to diversify and attract much-needed jobs to our region,” he said. “Many of our people lost their jobs because of the decline in the coal industry. Our region stands ready with a willing and skilled workforce to meet this company’s needs. We are pleased that AppHarvest is locating in our region and look forward to their success, along with the economic boost they will bring to Eastern Kentucky.”
Rep. John Blanton, of Salyersville, said the project will assist with efforts to diversify the local economy.
“I am thrilled to welcome AppHarvest to Pikeville,” Blanton said. “Eastern Kentucky is home to a dedicated and reliable workforce, and the creation of 140 jobs is a much-needed boost to our local economy. We continue to work diligently in diversifying our economy, and AppHarvest is a welcome addition to our business community. I thank them for their investment in Pike County and look forward to their continued success.”
Pikeville Mayor James Carter said the community has worked endlessly to make opportunities like this possible.
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