Kentucky Politics

Eastern Kentucky agri-tech company AppHarvest launched a container farm classroom program at Madison Central High School in Richmond on Thursday.

The project uses retrofitted shipping containers as grow houses that can hold thousands of seedlings and mature plants. It’ll operate as a hands-on agriculture classroom and feed students and people in the community.

AppHarvest Founder and CEO Jonathan Webb said the initiative would be a model for the state and country.

“We want to see communities across the region use technology to bring farms to life. And it’s going to be our youth that do it,” Webb said.

Webb said AppHarvest plans to establish similar projects at 20 schools in eastern Kentucky.

The company has already set up container farms at schools in Jackson, Pikeville and Morehead, where it’s headquartered

Gov. Andy Beshear attended the event and said he wants the state to be an agri-tech leader as the nation emerges from the coronavirus pandemic.

“We have a chance coming out of this to be so much better. — as people and as a commonwealth. We have a chance, oh my goodness, in our economy and our possibilities, to take off and lead this country,” Beshear said.

Founded in 2017, AppHarvest built a 2.76 million-square-foot greenhouse in Morehead last year and is building two more facilities in Madison County.

Rocky Adkins, an eastern Kentucky native and special adviser to the governor, said he is “infuriated” by the depopulation of the region and hopes projects like this will help reverse that trend.

“For students to be involved and be able to partake is extremely important, for the hope and opportunity we’re all looking for,” Adkins said.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.