Startup Nets Another $28M for Giant Greenhouse

It will be the world's largest greenhouse.

AppHarvest was formed in 2017 as a high-tech agricultural startup, focused on sustainable food production for the United States. The company's premise focuses around the world's largest greenhouse, and it just received another large influx of cash to make it happen.

Bloomberg reported Aug. 6 that the Lexington, Kentucky-based company netted $28 million in its latest investment round, pushing its total funding to $150 million raised in just the past two years. Big-name investors include food entrepreneur Martha Stewart, Impossible Foods CFO David Lee and best-selling author and investor J.D. Vance, each of whom are on AppHarvest's board of directors.

The company recently finished building its massive, 2.76 million-square-foot greenhouse on 25 hectares in Moorehead, Kentucky — a location that AppHarvest says is less than a day’s drive from 70 percent of the US population and caters to the company’s strategy to reduce fuel and food waste associated with transporting fresh vegetables around the country. The controlled growing environment also eliminates the need for pesticides.

The greenhouse is set to open this fall with 300 workers. The company aims to boost job creation in the Appalachian region of eastern Kentucky that has been hit hard by the coal industry’s decline.

Further on the sustainability front, the giant facility relies completely on recycled rainwater, using a 10-acre retention pond that AppHarvest says completely eliminated agricultural runoff that causes toxic algae blooms. Meanwhile, the company’s veggies grow under a hybrid lighting system that uses Phillips GreenPower LEDs, which are reportedly 40 percent more efficient than typical lighting. That system — the world’s largest US LED installation — helps the startup increase its harvest rate while reducing natural gas usage in cooler months.

The first crop the greenhouse will churn out is tomatoes, chosen due to the US’ heavy reliance on importing them. The company says it will produce more than 45 million pounds of tomatoes annually.

AppHarvest isn’t done raising cash. The company is already planning a larger fundraising round later this year, which it plans to use for more hiring.

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