Kentucky’s Appalachia region will soon be home to one of the nation’s largest greenhouse vegetable operations. AppHarvest’s controlled environment facility in Morehead, KY, will grow tomatoes and cucumbers. The structure is under construction and will open in the second half of 2020.
By locating within Appalachia, AppHarvest benefits from being less than a day’s drive to 70% of the U.S. population. That lowers diesel use in transportation costs by 80%, allowing the company’s fresher produce to compete against low-cost foreign imports. AppHarvest produce will be distributed to the top 25 U.S. grocers through partner Mastronardi Produce.
The 60-acre greenhouse will be outfitted with a $15 million hybrid LED lighting system, making it the world’s largest LED installation for a single building. Through a partnership with Equilibrium, a leading greenhouse investment firm that is providing upwards of $100 million for the facility, the state-of-the-art greenhouse will utilize Philips GreenPower LEDs from Signify.
AppHarvest’s engineers have devised a cutting-edge hybrid system to dramatically reduce energy use in the greenhouse and increase yields. The Philips GreenPower LEDs, which are 40% more efficient than typical greenhouse lighting, will be paired with Agrolux high-pressure sodium (HPS) lamps. Given their efficiency, the LEDs produce less heat and will be used in warmer fall and spring months to grow more produce. During colder months, both the LEDs and HPS lamps will be used, and the heat from the latter will help warm the greenhouse and reduce natural gas usage.
The LEDs will be installed by Dalsem Complete Greenhouse Projects, which is overseeing construction of the 2.8 million square-foot greenhouse. The LED installation raises the all-cash investment by Equilibrium’s Controlled Environment Foods Fund from $82 million to nearly $100 million.
“This LED installation reinforces how our Farming Now movement uses proven technology to grow more fresh food with far less resources,” says Jonathan Webb, Founder and CEO of AppHarvest. “Eastern Kentucky is mobilizing to lead the real food revolution and become the AgTech capital of America.”