PIKEVILLE — The University of Pikeville is working alongside AppHarvest in its goal of making Eastern Kentucky the high-tech greenhouse capital of the U.S. The agricultural startup, founded by emerging entrepreneur and Kentucky native Jonathan Webb, will break ground on its first $60 million high-tech greenhouse in spring of 2018. The company selected to locate in Pikeville, due to its geographic location and access to nearly 70 percent of the U.S. population within a day’s drive. Utilizing revolutionary growing techniques, AppHarvest will supply sustainable produce to consumers nationally.
AppHarvest is currently operating from an office located in UPIKE’s new Health Professions Education Building. The university is actively exploring the idea of developing curriculum that aligns with the high-tech Ag industry and specifically provides valuable skills desired by AppHarvest’s large-scale greenhouse operation.
UPIKE President Dr. Burton Webb and Provost Dr. Lori Werth plan to visit Wageningen University & Research and HAS University of Applied Sciences this month. Both institutions are located in the Netherlands, which has earned a reputation for being the high-tech Ag capital globally.
Burton Webb and Jonathan Webb, who are of no familial relation, quickly formed a collaborative relationship. “Businesses like AppHarvest are looking to Appalachia because of our beautiful surroundings, willing workforce and open arms. We are pleased that AppHarvest is investing in the lives of Appalachians as we work together to build a new, more diverse economy,” Burton Webb said.
“AppHarvest has received incredible support from the University of Pikeville,” said Jonathan Webb. “Partnering with a leading institution committed to pursuing a high-tech Ag program will set us up for success in the long run.”
U.S. Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers (KY-05) commented on the importance of developing a high-tech workforce and diversifying the economy in Appalachia.
“We are planting seeds of innovation and hope in Eastern Kentucky with home-grown engineers, like AppHarvest, leading the way as we strive to bring Silicon Valley to Silicon Holler,” said Rogers. “We are developing a high-tech workforce for high-tech enterprise in the Appalachian region to elevate our competitive edge for jobs and economic development. The resiliency and sheer talent of our people are the very reasons why we are able to diversify our economy and advance incredible ideas, like these high-tech greenhouses, in one of the most rural parts of the country.”
Today, Revolution’s Rise of the Rest® seed fund announced it has made an investment in AppHarvest, Inc. The fund is managed by AOL co-founder Steve Case and J.D. Vance and is backed by more than 30 iconic business leaders including Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz, fashion designer Tory Burch and Alphabet chairman Eric Schmidt. The Rise of the Rest® seed fund supports entrepreneurs outside of Silicon Valley and other coastal tech hubs.
“The Rise of the Rest investment brings national attention to the model we’ve created in Pikeville, Kentucky,” said Jonathan Webb.
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin said, “Rise of the Rest’s investment into AppHarvest, a promising Eastern Kentucky Ag-tech startup, recognizes the immediate potential of Kentucky as a key player in the tech world. When you combine Kentucky’s improved business climate, workforce training initiatives and central location, we make a compelling case as the best place in America for high-tech and advanced manufacturing investment. The commonwealth is quickly becoming the nation’s center of excellence in engineering and manufacturing. We are grateful for this investment by Rise of the Rest and look forward to continue working alongside Jonathan Webb and AppHarvest as they create new opportunities for Eastern Kentucky and beyond.”
— Submitted for publication by University of Pikeville