business

AppHarvest CEO Warns U.S. Has 'No Choice' But to Shift to Indoor Farming

AppHarvest has announced that it will be listed publicly on the Nasdaq via a merger with Novus Capital Corp, a special purpose acquisition company.
The news sent shares of $NOVS up 20 percent at the open Tuesday.
AppHarvest builds indoor grow facilities for cultivating fruits and vegetables in Morehead, Kentucky. On October 21, their first operation will start pumping out beefsteak tomatoes — a job that its founder and CEO Jonathan Webb said had left for Mexico.
"We're going to bring that production back into the U.S., put it indoors in a controlled environment," Webb told Cheddar on Tuesday. "We can use 90 percent less water, get the harsh chemical pesticides out of agriculture, and get 30 times more yield per acre."
Webb says the coronavirus pandemic exposed the need to keep growing produce domestically.
"We as a country are very vulnerable," Webb said. "We have pushed our fruit and vegetable production out of the country and we're heavily reliant on those imports to stock our shelves."
The merger taking AppHarvest public comes just before the company's product is ready to ship out, according to Webb.
"The people buying into AppHarvest are buying into builder, operator, and brand," Webb said. "We'll be at some of the largest grocers here in a couple of months. We'll be in the largest fast-food chains."
The Kentucky-native is looking to bring about 350 jobs to one of America's poorest congressional districts. A CEO bothered by global crises that nobody is "talking about," Webb's background is in the development of large-scale renewable energy projects related to solar power. According to his LinkedIn page, his company worked in tandem with the U.S. Army to develop these facilities for two years before he founded AppHarvest in 2017.
"My job is to build big stuff fast," Webb explained as he name-dropped an impressive roster of business minds that sit on AppHarvest's board of directors. He added that he's relied "heavily" on people like Impossible Foods CFO David Lee and Martha Stewart.
Webb sees indoor farming as a necessary next step for humanity to solve the global food crisis.
"In our lifetime, what we're going to see is most all power is going to come from renewable resources, most all cars are going to run on electricity, and most all fruits and vegetables at scale are going to be grown in a controlled environment facility," Webb said. "We don't have a choice."
Webb pointed to a 2011 study by the United Nations which found that farmers will have to start producing 70 percent more food by 2050 to support a human population of more than 9 billion people.
"Many are saying we would need two planets Earths to have enough land and water to grow that food," Webb said. "Companies are chasing these quarterly projections instead of a 10-, 20-year plan."
"We have got to rebuild farming in America. We've gotta rebuild it rapidly," he added.
According to AppHarvest's investor presentation, its planned series of facilities in the Appalachians makes it prime for shipping costs, as it can reach 75 percent of the continental U.S. within a day's drive.
"We want the public to not only be the buyer of our fruits and vegetables," Webb said. "We want them to be the owner in the company with us and help transform American agriculture."
Updates 4:37 pm ET Sept 30, 2020 to correct Novus Capital Corp's ticker symbol to $NOVS.
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