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Four Companies Helping Push Sustainability and AgTech Forward in Kentucky

Updated: Dec 9, 2020

While preparing for our episode with AppHarvest CMO Geof Rochester, I found a quote in a news article that really stuck out to me. It got me really excited for the future here in Kentucky. It is referencing Eastern Kentucky.

“The region which was previously known for its booming coal-mining industry that brought power to the nation is now helping to shape history once again.”

It is a well-known fact that the days of coal power are numbered. During Tesla’s recent “Battery Day,” Elon Musk proudly stated that power production from coal has fallen 50%. In 2010 coal production was 46% of our energy and today it is just 23%. That decline has hurt Kentucky in recent years and no one has been hurt more than Eastern Kentucky, but they aren’t going to just sit back and watch the world pass them by. They are going to fight back. That is why AppHarvest is such a special local story. They are working hard to help shape Kentucky’s future so we can once again shape our country’s history by prioritizing sustainability and healthy eating.

In all our interviews with AppHarvest, they have made it clear they want Kentucky to be the AgTech Capital of the World. A very exciting goal I think we all need to get behind because they can’t do it alone and they aren’t doing it alone. There are many players popping up in this space that deserve attention as well. We’ve spoken with several of them and wanted to highlight them. Here are four other startups helping build the future of AgTech and sustainability in Kentucky.

Land Betterment:

On episode 97, we sat down with the Land Betterment co-founders Kirk Taylor and Mark Jensen to discuss their work cleaning up Eastern Kentucky. As stated above, the coal industry has been decimated in recent years and that rapid decline has left quite a mess. Land Betterment is taking that mess in the form of abandoned coal mines, coal waste, polluted water, and trash and are turning it into something that can bring the region some sort of value. Their projects and the value those projects generate vary but they all have two common themes: sustainability and jobs. What were once coal mines are now being turned into recycling centers, sustainable housing, bee farms, distilleries, and entrepreneurship zones. Check out the episode below:

Silver Fern Group:

On episode 106, we interviewed Silver Fern Group co-founder and CEO Adam VanWingerden. He and his team are building software to help bring the horticulture and indoor farming industry into the future by providing them transparency using data. This data gives farms the ability to track their inventory, supply chain, and sales so they can grow more intelligently. The team is less than a year old but they have generations of experience behind them. Adam and his co-founder/brother Stephen VanWingerden come from a family of greenhouse farmers that have helped shape the industry for many years now. Take a listen to how Adam and his team are keeping the family tradition going into the future!

Stellar Plants:

Joe Cox of Stellar plants was interviewed on Episode 102. We discussed how indoor farming is the future and how his team is helping bring the technology to Kentucky. They are building a controlled farming system that is much like AppHarvest but on a much smaller scale… for now. Stellar Plant’s vertical farming technology is being used to grow leafy greens for local restaurants and stores using 97% less water and no harmful chemicals. Joe and his team are still very early in their development, but they have big dreams and a clear vision on how to accomplish them. Listen here to learn more.


On episode 111, we sat down with the co-founder of NATIVE, Sarah Sanders. Native is another agricultural software technology company that is focusing on bringing more data and transparency to the supply chain of produce. Their technology not only provides farmers with data to create more efficient farming practices but it also enables consumers to trace the origins of their food right back to the farm it came from. With this technology, consumers can now directly support producers who are using responsible farming methods. Sarah and her team believe this kind of transparency is table stakes today during a time when consumers are so conscious of the purpose and values behind the brands they support. Learn more by listening to the full episode below:

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