Hort Americas, GE Current Team Up to Aid AppHarvest Expansion
In May 2020, greenhouse vegetable grower AppHarvest approached commercial horticultural distributor Hort Americas with a challenging request.
AppHarvest, which was already operating a 60-acre greenhouse tomato operation in Morehead, Kentucky, was looking to build an additional three production facilities in the Appalachian region.
AppHarvest’s request to Hort Americas was to source LED grow lights that were:
1. Manufactured in the United States.
2. Manufactured in the Appalachian region.
3. Manufactured at a cost equal or less than the other horticultural product suppliers.
Hort Americas president Chris Higgins contacted GE Current, a Daintree company, which manufactures horticultural LED grow lights. At the time Current wasn’t manufacturing any of its grow lights in the United States.
Through a collaborative effort, known as AppLit, between the three companies, Current officials made the decision to begin producing LED grow lights at its manufacturing facility in Hendersonville, North Carolina.
“Current has produced outdoor and industrial products at the plant for 70+ years,” said Mike Armstrong, former director of strategic growth initiatives at Current. “The plant has reduced its footprint on the manufacturing side. By incorporating the latest robotics and high-speed assembly technology initiatives has enabled Current to speed up and improve its output efficiencies and its quality across the board. What that means for horticultural and agricultural products is the plant has compressed its manufacturing footprint within the facility which allows for opportunities for growth and expansion.”
Armstrong said the expansion that is occurring within the controlled environment agriculture industry offers a great opportunity for expansion at the Current plant.
“We have this manufacturing facility here in Henderson County, where there is this huge growth market and industry,” he said. “It gives us a lease on life for the future because it is such a growing and dynamic industry.”
Higgins said the benefits of the AppLit project are best summarized as promoting community and collaboration.
“The pandemic has forced us to become better problem solvers and better partners,” Higgins said. “We are building products in the United States that create good jobs for multiple people in the supply chain from manufacturing the lights to the people growing the food.
“AppLit was designed to support Appalachian companies and communities. This is going to lead to opportunities for greenhouse growers, vertical farmers and other people within the controlled environment agriculture sector around the country and throughout North America. It also reminds us of the importance of collaborations. These are lessons we don’t plan on forgetting anytime soon.”