Loyola University Chicago
AppHarvest was founded with the goal of finding a more sustainable solution to the world's growing food needs. By 2050, the world will need 70% more food, according to Amy Samples, AppHarvest’s Director of Culture. AppHarvest is aiming to combat our growing issue of food insecurity in a way that has positive social and environmental sustainability impacts.
The way AppHarvest operates allows for a socially and environmentally sustainable way to grow the agriculture sector of Appalachia by cutting down on emissions and agricultural waste. They are building some of the largest high-tech greenhouses in the country, implementing the use of a hybrid lighting system including LEDs to reduce energy consumption by 80%. In addition, they will use a 10-acre retention pond that will gather rainwater to help reduce their water consumption by 90%. This allows AppHarvest to use a natural resource to water the produce, and also eliminates agricultural runoff. AppHarvest, as a high-tech container farm, can operate year-round, eliminating the seasonal constraints associated with traditional farming, proving AppHarvest to be a resilient source of food to empower the Appalachia region to become America’s AgTech (Agricultural Technology) capital. The innovations that gave way to AppHarvest show a strong contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals (Goal 2: Zero Hunger; Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production; Goal 13: Climate Action; Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth). The team at AppHarvest is small, but they are determined to create a better way to grow produce.
Kentucky and Appalachia have a long history of agriculture, predominantly commodity crops, such as tobacco. AppHarvest saw this area as an opportunity to mobilize a workforce that is already available, partially due to the downturn of the coal economy. AppHarvest also strategically selected this area to help combat the massive carbon emissions that currently occur in food transport. According to Samples, much of our produce spends up to five days on a truck. Not only is this food less fresh, but it contributes to a larger carbon footprint. By choosing Appalachia as the location, AppHarvest cuts down the emissions produced when transporting food, as the region is located within a day’s drive of 70% of the U.S. population, reducing diesel use by 80%, according to AppHarvest's website (Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production; Goal 13: Climate Action).
AppHarvest was born from innovation. The passion for sustainable farming drove the founders of AppHarvest to get creative and seek solutions. Part of what makes AppHarvest unique is its location in Appalachia. This area has a capable workforce and AppHarvest is providing high-quality jobs. They are contributing to the Sustainable Development Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth by putting a focus on community outreach, with programs in many Eastern Kentucky high schools. This allows students to learn about Agriculture Technology as well as entrepreneurship to cultivate the next generation of AgTech leaders and to educate youth about local career opportunities in this field. AppHarvest is helping develop a resilient economy.
AppHarvest's innovation also has many positive effects on the environment. According to their website, “[Their] high-tech greenhouses distribute water more efficiently, reducing usage by up to 90%” (Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production). Indoor farming also allows fruits and vegetables to be grown 365 days a year, providing the region with a sustainable food source, and their high-tech methods result in 30 times more food than traditional farming methods (Goal 2: Zero Hunger). This eliminates the need to ship produce from other countries, which reduces negative effects on the environment.
The short term effects of AppHarvest’s business model include high-quality jobs (Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth). The long term effects include more high-quality jobs, fresher food, and lower emissions from food distribution. AppHarvest is still pre-revenue, but according to Samples, demand is already high.
While AppHarvest focuses on social and environmental sustainability, there is also a business case for what they are doing. According to Samples, consumers are willing to pay higher prices for products they know are sustainable, and AppHarvest has the ability to capitalize on that. AppHarvest is pre-revenue, but based on the business model alone, they have gained support and financial backing from Steve Case, co-founder of AOL, activist Jeff Ubben, and Equilibrium, the world's largest controlled environment agriculture venture fund.
AppHarvest is a Benefit Corporation, which allows them to put social and environmental sustainability at the forefront of their business. By growing food locally in the Appalachian of Kentucky, AppHarvest is creating high-quality local jobs that improve the quality of life for many people in this region. This local food production also cuts down on the massive carbon emissions required to ship produce all the way from Mexico or other countries. The produce travels a shorter distance to its final destination, resulting in fresher food and lower emissions by up to 80%.
Amy Samples, Director of Culture
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Morehead, KY, US
Business Website: https://www.appharvest.com
Year Founded: 2017
Number of Employees: 11 to 50