Morehead, Kentucky-based AppHarvest has completed calibration of its “touchless growing system” for salad greens at its 15-acre Berea, Kentucky, indoor farm by having grown more than 20 varieties of lettuce.
The company is 80 percent complete with planting of its 30-acre AppHarvest Somerset Farm, which has the capacity to grow about 1 million strawberry plants. The company’s 60-acre flagship farm in Morehead is expected to start harvesting its third season of tomatoes mid-fourth quarter.
“With a laser-like focus on core operations, the AppHarvest team across the board is delivering on its commitment to complete the largest controlled environment agriculture build-out in U.S. history this year,” said Julie Nelson, AppHarvest COO. “We literally expect to reap the fruits of our labor starting in the fourth quarter.”
The AppHarvest Berea Farm is expected to be the world’s largest high-tech farm for autonomously harvested salad greens with the latest “touchless growing system” by Green Automation. The hands-off system helps to improve both food safety and efficiency. To calibrate the touchless growing system, the company has grown more than 20 types of salad greens, which go from seed to maturity in about three to four weeks depending on variety. AppHarvest expects commercial shipments from the Berea facility to start in the fourth quarter.
The AppHarvest Berea growing environment leverages sunshine and rainwater and is automated for lighting, humidity and temperature. The farm uses a closed-loop irrigation system, which enables expected water savings of up to 90 percent compared to open-field farming and allows for precision dosing of nutrients, resulting in far less use of fertilizer compared to open-field farming while avoiding pollution from agricultural runoff. The AppHarvest Berea farm also employs integrated pest management – using good bugs to take care of bad bugs and early detection and prevention – to avoid the use of harsh chemical pesticides.
The AppHarvest Somerset Farm is expected primarily to grow strawberries and is expected seasonally to grow cucumbers. The AppHarvest Somerset farm also uses sunshine, boosted with a hybrid LED lighting array when needed and rainwater in a closed-loop irrigation system.
AppHarvest also continues construction on its 60-acre Richmond farm, which will double the company’s capacity to grow tomatoes. Combined with the Morehead farm, the Richmond facility is expected to enable the company to grow about 1.5 million tomato plants per season. The AppHarvest Richmond farm is expected to start producing before the end of 2022.
AppHarvest sells to the top 25 national grocery store outlets, as well as to select restaurants and food service providers through its distribution partner, Mastronardi Produce.