A high-tech sustainable greenhouse is about to be built in coal country

Kentucky may be coal country, but that’s not stopping entrepreneurs from introducing sustainability to the state. In Morehead, a small town where roughly one in three people live below the poverty line, a company called AppHarvest is constructing a massive new 60-acre high-tech greenhouse will be constructed that is designed to bring back local jobs while shrinking the environmental footprint of delivering food to cities like Washington, D.C. and Nashville.

Kentucky has been suffering as the coal industry continues its decline, but the region has more possibilities than just mining. The state’s location is strategic for deliveries: Trucks leaving the area can reach 70% of the American population within a day.  With year-round, efficient production, a food company could compete with produce coming from much farther away. Delivering food to the eastern part of the US from Kentucky would mean using 80 percent less diesel than trucking produce from Mexico.

But it’s not just shorter distances that make this project sustainable. AppHarvest has designed the system to have as little impact as possible. The greenhouse will grow tomatoes and cucumbers using hydroponics, a growing system that grows plants in a nutrient solution rather than soil. It uses 90% less water than farming in a field, and will rely entirely on rainwater stored in a retention pond on-site. Because the facility is enclosed, it eliminates the need for pesticides. And unlike fully enclosed indoor farms in warehouses, it will use sunlight along with artificial lighting, so it can save energy.

The facility is expected to provide 100 construction jobs and 285 full-time, permanent jobs that pay a minimum of $13 an hour plus benefits.

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