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‘Harvesting hope’ to ‘feed the world’: AppHarvest plants container farm in Floyd County

Weekday broadcast of WYMT Mountain News at 6
Published: Nov. 29, 2021 at 3:28 PM EST
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MARTIN, Ky. (WYMT) - AppHarvest continues to grow as the ag-tech company launches its latest project in the county where the original seeds of the company were planted.

On Monday, Officials with AppHarvest and Governor Andy Beshear visited Floyd County to celebrate the opening of a new container farm.

“I was living in Penhook on Harold, Ky. and started the company out of a garage,” said AppHarvest Founder and CEO Jonathan Webb.

Since those original plans were set, the company has grown exponentially from its original Morehead greenhouse, branching out into several communities. Part of that growth, the container farm program, has been bringing in students across the region since 2018.

The newest location at the Floyd County School of Innovation invites students in the Future Farmers of America program to get involved in hands-on access to state-of-the-art agricultural technology.

“This is really special. These FFA students are gonna have more hands-on experience with the latest agriculture technology than anyone else in this country or perhaps in this world,” said Gov. Beshear.

According to AppHarvest, each container is 2,880 cubic feet, weighing 7.5 tons “and includes space to grow up to 4,608 seedlings and 8,800 mature plants all at once using 440 vertical crop columns.” The container’s LED lighting and closed-loop irrigation systems allow students to grow up to 940 full heads of lettuce, or 1,570 miniature heads in each crop per week.

The pod marked the seventh container farm of its kind the company has planted in Kentucky, as plans continue to get at least 20 in operation in the years to come- with hopes to eventually expand into every high school in the state.

“If we don’t show young people in high school what the possibilities are in agriculture, we’re gonna lose all of our farmers,” said Webb.

Webb said it is about more than the opportunity of being in the container farm- it is about showing students the potential and opportunity each of them has. The students agree, saying they feel like being part of the program is not only planting them in the perfect place for growth, it allows them to harvest a little hope in their own home town.

“It feels like we’ve accomplished something. That we’re a part of something bigger,” said FFA President Logan Morrison.

He said the work is lightyears ahead of the traditional gardening the community is used to, with cameras, tech, and the ability to control everything from a cell phone.

“I know, I’ve done it with my papaw. It’s hard work getting that soil. But it’s crazy to think that you could grow plants in foam,” he said.

The produce grown in the container will be used in the school and the FFA will find ways to offer it to the community as well.

”They’re gonna be ready for that next series of jobs,” said Gov. Beshear. “They’re gonna be ready for us to go do something really important: Feed the world.”

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