The AppHarvest Berea Farm in Kentucky is expected to be the world’s largest indoor farm that features autonomous harvesting of salad greens with the latest “touchless growing system” by Green Automation.
AppHarvest announced it has completed calibration of its “touchless growing system” for salad greens at its 15-acre Berea indoor farm in Kentucky (USA). The company says it has successfully grown more than 20 varieties of lettuce and is approximately 80% 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, Kentucky, is expected to start harvesting its third season of tomatoes mid-fourth quarter.
Also read: AppHarvest acquires robotics and AI company Root AI
Autonomous harvesting of salad greens on the AppHarvest Berea Farm is done with the latest “touchless growing system” by Green Automation. The hands-off system is to help improve both food safety and efficiency. To calibrate the touchless growing system, the company has successfully grown more than 20 types of salad greens, which go from seed to maturity in about three to four weeks depending on variety.
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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 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, Kentucky, 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 that continuously produce for more than 10 months of the year. The AppHarvest Richmond farm is expected to start producing before the end of 2022.
Vertical farming holds immense promise to help meet the demand for better quality fresh produce for the world’s growing population, and offers innovative solutions to some of agriculture’s biggest challenges, according to John Purcell, CEO and President of Unfold. Read his Expert Opinion here.