The future of farming may very well be indoors, judging by the news that a two-year-old startup, AppHarvest, plans to build a behemoth 2.8 million-square-foot greenhouse in Morehead, Kentucky for mass cultivation year-round. According to the New York Times, AppHarvest plans to use the greenhouse, which will be one of the world’s largest, to produce 45 million pounds of fresh produce per year.
- The structure, covering approximately 60 acres, has an estimate production cost of $85 million and is due to begin agricultural production in 2020, according to Kentucky.com. It will produce tomatoes and cucumbers initially, Greenhouse Grower reports. The LED lighting system alone for the greenhouse costs $15 million.
- Investors include investment firm Rise of the Rest, co-managed by “Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance, and Equilibrium, a “greenhouse investment firm.”
- Its location in Appalachia puts it within one day’s shipping distance of 70% of the U.S. population, which should cut diesel transportation costs by 80%.
- The 350-acre site will also include a 10-acre stormwater retention pond, allowing AppHarvest to irrigate greenhouse plants with rainwater rather than water from local mains, contributing to its long-term financial and environmental sustainability.
- AppHarvest is also partnering with local high schools and colleges to provide training to aspiring workers in agricultural technology.
- Kentucky is already home to a number of huge greenhouses, including several producing cannabis. However the U.S. overall lags behind other countries in greenhouse cultivation, with just 911 hectares (2,221 acres) of enclosed production — a negligible amount compared Spain (70,000 hectares), China (82,000 hectares and growing), or The Netherlands (11,500 hectares).