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AppHarvest hires Amazon veteran in operations role

MOREHEAD, Ky., July 26, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — AgTech leader AppHarvest, a public benefit company and certified B Corporation focused on farming more sustainably using 90% less water than open-field agriculture and only recycled rainwater, has named Amazon veteran Mark Keller as its SVP, Software Applications Platform.

Keller joins the AppHarvest technology group as it works to operationalize its Project TalOS platform to make fresh fruit and vegetable production as reliable as consumer goods manufacturing.

To create the Farm of the Future, AppHarvest is investing in robotics, artificial intelligence, tele-operation, and proprietary seed genetics. With robots roving through the facility alongside the company’s human labor force, interacting with and caring for the crops, the company will be collecting data continuously on plant production to feed into AI and then using software to align facility operations with sales and logistics.

“We are massively expanding our team to build out our digital operating model for farming, which has AI at its core that can manage a global network of facilities and effortlessly execute complex supply chain strategies intelligently and autonomously,” said Josh Lessing, AppHarvest chief technology officer.

“Adding an industry veteran like Mark will be a true game changer for this growth phase of our business, and his strong, people-centric leadership skills will be a key enabler for the AppHarvest technology group.”

Keller has a proven record spanning more than 25 years of turning ideas into full-featured technology solutions, such as launching Amazon’s first four large-scale Kiva robotics sortable warehouses and the PrimeNow Warehouse Management Software used to run the company’s one-hour fulfillment centers.

“The Holy Grail in agriculture is predicting and managing yield and quality,” said AppHarvest founder and CEO Jonathan Webb. “Having Mark join will accelerate our efforts as we train our intelligent robot, Virgo, to harvest multiple crops—ranging from tomatoes and cucumbers to more delicate fruits such as strawberries—as we move toward more AI-informed growing. These insights collected and analyzed, then fed into AI, will be the true game changer for us since every piece of fruit is an outcome that resulted from the many variables in the growing process.”

“Two of the most pressing global concerns are water scarcity and creating resilient food supply, and AppHarvest is solving for both,” said Keller. “As a father of four, I want to leave a strong legacy for my children and leverage technology for good. The foundation AppHarvest is building will give controlled environment agriculture the opportunity to restructure the food landscape to mirror the hyper-efficient ecommerce landscape.”

Keller is a Hispanic Gulf-War veteran who brings a unique perspective to employee engagement programs being an early driver of the Amazon Warriors veterans employee group and having participated in the Latinos @ Amazon employee group. Keller also was an early adopter of the Military Apprentice Software Development Engineer program to improve diversity hiring in technology, which he expects to continue at AppHarvest.

About AppHarvest

AppHarvest is an applied technology company in Appalachia developing and operating some of the world’s largest high-tech indoor farms, designed to grow non-GMO, chemical pesticide-free produce, using up to 90 percent less water than open-field agriculture and only recycled rainwater while producing yields up to 30 times that of traditional agriculture on the same amount of land without agricultural runoff. The company combines conventional agricultural techniques with cutting-edge technology including artificial intelligence and robotics to improve access for all to nutritious food, farming more sustainably, building a domestic food supply, and increasing investment in Appalachia. The company’s 60-acre Morehead, Ky. facility is among the largest indoor farms in the U.S. For more information, visit https://www.appharvest.com/.

MEDIA CONTACTS: Travis Parman, Travis.Parman@appharvest.com;
Blair Carpenter, Blair.Carpenter@appharvest.com