Historically, California and Mexico have produced most of the fresh produce sold to consumers in the United States.
But, according to AppHarvest, unsustainable farming practices, structural changes in water resources and over-reliance on chemicals, which can be harmful to people in a variety of ways, have degraded large swaths of arable land.
Globally, it is estimated that approximately one-third of cropland is at least partially degraded. AppHarvest reports that this figure could increase to more than 90% of arable land unless there is a significant change in agricultural practices and infrastructure.
In addition, changes in weather patterns believed to be the result of climate change are accelerating the threat to existing agricultural regions.
Reduced rainfall and increasingly hotter conditions in certain growing regions are increasing demand and consumption of irrigation water.
Two-thirds of Mexico is arid or semi-arid, with annual rainfall of less than 500 millimeters.
At the same time, the Public Policy Institute of California estimates that between 500,000 and 780,000 hectares would have to go fallow for the state’s natural aquifers to rebalance.
Continued reliance on imports puts the U.S. food supply at risk in the event of both natural events and political destabilization.
Already, the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted this risk. During the pandemic, the supply chain has been disrupted and food imports have, at times, been delayed or even cancelled.
A reduced or delayed supply of products can have a pronounced impact on grocery stores, which typically operate on tight financial margins and just-in-time inventory practices.
Likewise, AppHarvest adds, a consistent and reliable supply chain is vital to the grocery distribution sector, which attempts to closely match the supply of perishable products to short-term customer demand.
AppHarvest believes that Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA), which provides more reliable, sustainable and higher quality products produced to much higher food safety standards, is an optimal solution to the grocery industry’s dependence on imports, and that there will be a strong preference among distributors and grocery stores to switch from imports to CEA as more CEA supply becomes available.
Demand for sustainable agriculture and new CEA infrastructure has been amplified by the effects of climate change and other environmental factors.
AppHarvest’s facilities are well positioned to take advantage of Kentucky’s relatively high precipitation levels by capturing and recycling precipitation in large on-site retention ponds at our Morehead CEA facility and other planned CEAs to meet our ongoing irrigation needs.
AppHarvest believes that CEA is the global solution to address the growing demand for fresh fruits and vegetables, to offset the declining availability of high quality cropland, and to mitigate the effect of climate change on agriculture.
Using state-of-the-art technology, the company expects, at full production capacity, to be able to grow up to 30 times more produce on a single indoor hectare compared to a single outdoor hectare grown in the traditional way.