Kentucky Fresh Harvest and AppHarvest advance Kentucky’s horticultural sector

Oct. 19, 2020
Two large commercial growers anchor an organized AgTech push by the state of Kentucky, and the greenhouses involved will consume many LED-based luminaires for supplemental lighting.

Kentucky Fresh Harvest (KFH) has held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at its Stanford, KY commercial greenhouse operation based at a 30-acre campus and on the latest in AgTech including a complete controlled environment. The operation will grow tomatoes year round at a location that’s within a one-day truck ride to two thirds of the US population. Meanwhile, AppHarvest, which we have covered before, has announced plans to go public and raise additional capital for expansion and its 60-acre facility in Morehead, KY.

Both AppHarvest and KFH are part of the state of Kentucky’s AgriTech Advisory Council that Governor Andy Beshear formed back in July to boost the AgTech industry in the state. “AgriTech is the future of agriculture, and Kentucky is uniquely positioned to embrace and deliver on it,” said Beshear. “Being the global leader in the AgriTech industry not only will make Kentucky’s farms more productive and efficient, but also will benefit every citizen and every region of the commonwealth in creating industry and jobs.” The state further launched a dedicated website dedicated to AgTech called Kentucky AgriTech.

Kentucky Fresh Harvest

KFH has developed truly a controlled environment agriculture (CEA) setting for its tomato-centric operation. The farm says it recycles all water and nutrients not absorbed by around 13,000 plants, and cleans and recycles that captured fluid for reuse. The farm labels it a closed-loop irrigation system.

The greenhouses feature a mix of LED-based solid-state lighting (SSL) and high-pressure sodium (HPS) lighting. Such hybrid scenarios have become increasingly common because the HPS luminaires do double duty during cool weather, delivering both light and heat to the plants. KFH says that it further injects CO2 into the greenhouse on dark days to boost photosynthesis and increase natural sugar production. The farm is based on an AgTech control platform from InData.Farm.

“I’m extremely proud of our team at KFH,” said Curt Meltzer, CEO of KFH. “Not just for growing and harvesting this pilot crop during an extremely challenging time, but for the multitude of other steps they’ve taken this year to bring our vision for the Future of Farming to fruition. This is a win for Stanford, Lincoln County, and Kentucky’s agribusiness economy as a whole.”

“Kentucky Fresh Harvest is the type of company we envision can help strengthen our state’s economic potential, not just in the years ahead but for generations to come,” said Beshear. “The company bringing its operation on line during such a tumultuous time is a testament to their staff’s ability to adapt quickly and be prepared for any challenge. Kentucky Fresh Harvest has a bright future and I’m proud it will be here in the commonwealth.”


Moving to AppHarvest, that grower is even larger than KFH. We first covered AppHarvest a little more than a year ago when the company and its partner Signify said that the Morehead operation would have the most LED lighting of any building in the world. Moreover, the farm was one of many horticultural operations to garner significant venture investments. That investment had totaled near $100 million when we first reported on AppHarvest. AppHarvest also spoke at our HortiCann Light + Tech Conference last year, and note that the virtual HortiCann 2021 begins Tuesday, Oct 20.

Now AppHarvest is turning to the public market to raise additional cash. The move to go public will be executed via a merger of the existing AppHarvest business with Novus Capital Corp (Nasdaq: NOVS). Following the close of that deal, the new company will still be named AppHarvest and will be traded on the NASDAQ exchange under a new ticker symbol. AppHarvest founder and CEO Jonathan Webb will lead the new company.

The move to go public is being supported by existing and new investors including Novus Capital, Fidelity Management & Research Company, and Inclusive Capital. AppHarvest expects the move to provide $475 million in gross proceeds. The cash will allow AppHarvest to expand and build more farms throughout the Appalachia regions.

“We are excited to transition AppHarvest to a public company and raise nearly a half a billion dollars in the process,” said Webb. “This will allow us to pursue our mission of transforming agriculture. A mission that’s become even more important since the global pandemic exposed how a rapidly increasing reliance on imports jeopardizes food security. We now know that, to build a more resilient food system that meets our growing population demands, we must immediately start building controlled environment agriculture facilities, as these farms use far fewer resources to grow far more produce. We believe that this partnership with Novus Capital is a transformative transaction which will allow us to both rapidly scale our agriculture facilities, in pursuit of our goal to redefine American agriculture, and build the country’s AgTech capital within Appalachia. Together we can transform agriculture.”

“AppHarvest is a unique and compelling investment opportunity that is redefining American agriculture by improving access for all to fresh non-GMO produce, growing more with fewer resources, and creating an AgTech hub from within Appalachia,” said Bob Laikin, chairman of Novus Capital. “With significant tailwinds from heightened investor focus on ESG [environmental, social, and corporate governance] initiatives and the secular shift to plant-based foods, we believe AppHarvest is well-positioned to execute on its strategy for rapid growth and value creation.”

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About the Author

Maury Wright | Editor in Chief

Maury Wright is an electronics engineer turned technology journalist, who has focused specifically on the LED & Lighting industry for the past decade. Wright first wrote for LEDs Magazine as a contractor in 2010, and took over as Editor-in-Chief in 2012. He has broad experience in technology areas ranging from microprocessors to digital media to wireless networks that he gained over 30 years in the trade press. Wright has experience running global editorial operations, such as during his tenure as worldwide editorial director of EDN Magazine, and has been instrumental in launching publication websites going back to the earliest days of the Internet. Wright has won numerous industry awards, including multiple ASBPE national awards for B2B journalism excellence, and has received finalist recognition for LEDs Magazine in the FOLIO Eddie Awards. He received a BS in electrical engineering from Auburn University.