Jonathan Webb

Founder & CEO at AppHarvest

A Kentucky native, Jonathan has long been committed to sustainability and job creation in Appalachia. Now, after years of study and gathering support from inside and outside the region, he’s turned his dream of a high-tech farming hub in Appalachia into reality with AppHarvest. Why Appalachia? Like many Kentuckians, Jonathan grew up knowing of the devastating job losses in the region. But there are personal reasons, too. A coal mining accident killed his great-grandfather, and, from his grandmother, Jonathan learned of the hard times her family faced afterward. He came to know that people in Eastern Kentucky are among the hardest working in the country. In 2007, Jonathan became the first in his family to finish college, earning a business degree from the University of Kentucky. Eager to start wind and solar projects in Eastern Kentucky, he found the recession had soured investment in pretty much everything. So he packed up and headed to New York City. He slept in his car, applied for 150 jobs, and waited for interviews. Nobody called. He made his way to Washington D.C., where he worked with the U.S. Department of Defense on a massive solar project to help achieve a White House goal of ensuring the military’s hundreds of installations receive 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025. Over time, Jonathan came to understand that wind and solar farms bring temporary construction jobs, but they don’t create long-term job security. A different type of farm could, though. Jonathan learned about the Netherlands and its controlled environment agriculture facilities, which in a single acre yield as much as 30 outdoor acres and virtually eliminate the use of chemicals. And Appalachia’s location being within a day’s drive of 70 percent of the U.S. population makes it the perfect AgTech hub. In February 2017, encouraged by investors, advisers, and politicians of both parties, Jonathan left Washington and came home to Eastern Kentucky, where he now works tirelessly to create good jobs and redefine American agriculture.
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