- AppHarvest raised $28 million in a Series C funding round, bringing the total raised for the greenhouse startup to $150 million during the past two years, the company said in a statement.
- Martha Stewart, Impossible Foods' CFO David Lee and best-selling author and investor J.D. Vance have joined AppHarvest's board of directors, the company said.
- The company is planning to open one of the world’s largest indoor farms this fall in Morehead, Kentucky. The 2.76 million square-foot-facility will initially start growing non-GMO tomatoes. "The pandemic has demonstrated the need to establish more resilient food systems, and our work is on the forefront of that effort," Jonathan Webb, AppHarvest founder and CEO, said in a statement.
The creation of the 60-acre facility in Kentucky has been years in the making, but it could be just the beginning for AppHarvest. The facility will eschew the outdoor fields typically associated with agricultural production, instead embracing controlled environmental agriculture by working indoors with sprawling glass-enclosed greenhouses using rainwater to grow food that will be non-GMO and chemical-free.
The latest round of funding will undoubtedly go toward getting the facility up and running. Bloomberg reported AppHarvest is planning another larger funding round later in 2020. AppHarvest, which will focus first on tomatoes before branching out into cucumbers, bell peppers and eventually leafy greens and berries, taps into the growing consumer demand for healthier, locally produced items.
As Webb noted, interest for these items has increased since the pandemic took hold in the U.S. earlier this year. Consumers are increasingly caring about how their food is produced, both in terms of sustainability as well as where and how it's grown. If consumers know more about how their food is produced, and are able to get it sooner after it's harvested, they could be more apt to further increase their consumption.
Webb told Food Dive last year the Kentucky location of the greenhouse will allow produce to get to about 70% of the U.S. population in one day's drive, including people in Washington, D.C., New York, Philadelphia and Boston.
"It doesn't matter if you're on the left or the right side of the aisle, it's unacceptable that food gets trucked five days in this country to make it to a plate," he said in an interview. "That's not good for anybody. It's not good for the environment. It's not good for the quality of the food itself."
AppHarvest is planning to sell its produce to the largest 25 grocers in the U.S. and will compete with conventional pricing. By making it more affordable and competitive with other offerings on the market, it could entice additional retailers to purchase their produce based on the attributes that come with it, enabling AppHarvest to further grow its operations into other parts of the country.
As the company prepares to open its first greenhouse, Stewart's addition to the board brings name recognition. The financial expertise of Impossible Foods' Lee could be invaluable. He has previously worked at Del Monte Foods and was CFO at social game developer Zynga. His insight through overseeing Impossible Foods' financing and helping expand the rapidly growing business could be helpful to AppHarvest as it increases its reach in years to come, where additional cash will no doubt be needed to grow the business.