When it comes to the story of AppHarvest and its founder Jonathan Webb, two words come to mind. Faith and grit.
Webb, the founder and CEO of AppHarvest, will share his journey from an agritech idea to a publicly-traded company at SOAR during the opening plenary session of the FOCUS Summit on June 24 in Hazard.
The two-day event, focused on entrepreneurship and innovation, is June 23-24 at the First Federal Center on the campus of Hazard Community and Technical College.
How the seed was planted
AppHarvest started as an idea that everyone deserves access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Appalachia was the perfect fit — one day’s drive to 70% of the US population and a culture with deep ties to agriculture, hard work, and perseverance.
Before founding AppHarvest, Jonathan worked with the U.S. Department of Defense. He was planning a massive solar project to help achieve a White House goal of ensuring the military’s hundreds of installations receive 20% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025.
In February 2017, Jonathan left Washington and came home to Eastern Kentucky to start a new kind of farm.
It wasn’t easy. Nothing is when you are working to turn an idea into a reality. After all, AppHarvest isn’t conventional farming. It is farming with disruptive technology. From artificial intelligence, to hybrid lighting, to robotic harvesting, and natural pollination, AppHarvest has captured the hearts and minds of many across America and the globe.
The concept of high-tech agriculture is appealing and a hot topic around the globe. Doing it in the heart of Central Appalachia? That was a challenge. And one many thought was not worth the fight.
Jonathan took on the challenge, and he never quit. His compelling story of AppHarvest and its place in Central Appalachia gained traction when AOL Founder Steve Case and Rise of the Rest Seed Fund invested in the company’s first round of funding in January 2018.
That investment, coupled with others, led to the company going public in 2021.
How public? Well, it’s more than the stock market. One of AppHarvest’s board members is Martha Stewart.
AppHarvest is about dreamers and doers, and that exemplifies the people of Eastern Kentucky and Central Appalachia.
The company’s flagship farm is in Morehead. The sprawling 60-acre greenhouse is among the largest greenhouses in the world. Appharvest will open four more facilities in the coming year — a 60-acre greenhouse in Richmond (tomatoes), a 15-acre greenhouse (leafy greens) in Berea, and a 30-acre greenhouse (berries) in Somerset.
Join us in Hazard
Launching an idea here in Eastern Kentucky is possible. Learn from folks like Jonathan and connect with funders, programs, and other supportive services from across the region. You won’t want to miss this opportunity.
Registration for the Focus Summit is open now and only $35. This includes:
- All Programming, Presented by Primary Care Centers of Eastern Kentucky
- The SOAR Focus Summit Reception, Presented By KY Innovation and Entertainment Sponsored By Perry Distributors
- Startup Appalachia Pitch Competition, Presented by Community Trust Bancorp.
- Breakfast (Sponsored by Hazard/Perry County Tourism) and Lunch (Sponsored by KY Innovation) on June 24