Is the biggest greenhouse in the US the future of farming?
Words by Liz Kang, video by Dan Tham, CNN
3 minute read
3:19 AM EDT, Wed October 6, 2021
AppHarvest's greenhouse in Appalachia, Kentucky, is the biggest in the US. Using artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, the company says it yields 30 times more per acre than open fields, while using 90% less water. Look through the galleryto find out more.
Using 300 sensors, the facility collects data from the plants, and growers can remotely monitor the microclimate to ensure that crops receive the ideal amount of nutrients and water.
AI analyzes data from over 700,000 plants, and data is also collected by cameras attached to Virgo, AppHarvest's AI-powered robot.
Virgo uses AI to assess which tomatoes are ripe enough to harvest, and then picks and prunes them with its robotic arm.
AppHarvest's facility uses 100% recycled rainwater to grow its crops. Its 10-acre retention pond holds the equivalent of nearly 70 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
AppHarvest says that by using a combination of sunlight and LEDs it can produce up to 45 million pounds of tomatoes per year.
Technology could help reduce the environmental impact of farming. Global food production currently accounts for 80% of deforestation and 70% of all freshwater use, according to the WWF.
AppHarvest says AI-powered greenhouses could be a solution to the growing demand for food as the global population heads closer towards 10 billion people by 2050.
The company says it wants to minimize its carbon emissions by using renewable energy sources in the future.