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AppHarvest announces new AgTech program at local high school

(WYMT)
Published: Sep. 17, 2018 at 10:08 AM EDT
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As AppHarvest prepares to construct greenhouses in Pikeville, officials say they do not want to be defined by steel and glass alone.

"What's gonna define us is the people in the region, right," said AppHarvest CEO Johnathon Webb. "That's why we are here. The ingenuity, the tenacity, faith, and grit."

Already invested in East Kentucky, AppHarvest is now investing in its future by introducing an AgTech feeder program to students at Shelby Valley High School.

"We've partnered with AgTechX up in Brooklyn. That's Ramal Bradley's hometown. They're one of the top co-working labs for the future of food and agriculture. And we're gonna be pulling content from there and we're gonna be delivering it in a class here," Webb explained.

The program gives high school students the opportunity to further their agriculture education here at home.

"Hopefully next year, through the University of Pikeville and others, we will be able to work a partnership where we can offer some dual crediting offerings in Agricultural Technology," said Shelby Valley High School Principal Greg Napier.

The program will also give students the opportunity to live and work at home.

"With the loss of coal jobs, we are trying to find something to give our kids hope. Hope for a future," said Napier. "It gives our kids an opportunity to stay at home, make a living, raise a family instead of having to pack up and move off."

Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) CEO, Jared Arnett says it is that kind of hope that the future of Appalachia needs.

"I can tell you what the future of Appalachia is. It's whatever you believe it is. And so we need them to believe there is an opportunity, take risks, and give it there all to make it happen," said Arnett.

Miss Kentucky and several other celebrities were on hand showing their support of the direction being taken by AppHarvest. Including Eastern Kentucky's own 1999 number one NFL draft pick and UK All American Tim Couch.

"I'm born and raised in Eastern Kentucky so anything that is good for this region I am all for it. I'm 100% behind it," said Couch. "And Johnathon is a friend of mine so I'm here to support him and the people behind AppHarvest."

Officials say the future in Appalachia is looking brighter and greener. As this program is implemented in schools across the region, they say it is more likely that graduates will stay here to not only help grow the high tech agriculture industry but the economy as well.