AppHarvest, an agtech startup based in Kentucky, was one of 2019’s biggest tech stories from the Southeast. It appears that 2020 is off to a similarly fertile start in terms of funding, after the company’s recent announcement of an $11 million financing round led by a couple of very big names.
One of those two flashy names is Revolution, the D.C.-based VC firm run by Steve Case, the former AOL Time Warner chairman whose Rise of the Rest seed fund focuses on investments outside the major tech and startup hubs. The other is NBA player Blake Griffin, the Detroit Pistons power forward and native Midwesterner who made the investment through his family office, Blake Griffin Enterprises.
The pair were joined in the round by ValueAct Capital and Equilibrium Capital, the latter of which invested $82 million last year to fund construction of a high-tech, 2.7-million-acre greenhouse in Morehead, Kentucky.
As we mentioned in our December roundup of Hype’s biggest stories of the year, May 2019 was a standout month for AppHarvest.
The company closed a Series A equity round, and announced the investment from Equilibrium’s Controlled Environment Foods Fund to build the Kentucky greenhouse. When completed, the greenhouse will have irrigation systems designed to reduce water usage by 90 percent. Other features include vertically stacked crops and software that reacts to weather pattern and temperature changes in real time.
As founder and CEO Jonathan Webb said at the time, “By establishing a homegrown food supply here in the central location of Appalachia, we’ll be able to reach 70 percent of the U.S. population in just a day’s drive.”