Campus News

‘Creating a Fertile and Sustainable Future’: Lewis Honors College Speaker Series welcomes Jonathan Webb

photo of Jonathan Webb
Jonathan Webb is the founder and CEO of AppHarvest, a sustainable foods company developing and operating some of the world’s largest high-tech indoor farms to build an efficient food system.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 4, 2022) — The University of Kentucky Lewis Honors College Speaker Series will welcome entrepreneur and AppHarvest Founder Jonathan Webb to campus.

The event will take place in-person 4 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 8, in the Lewis Honors College Scholars Lounge. It is open to the entire UK community.

The purpose of the Lewis Honors College Speaker Series is to better prepare the Lewis Honors College students for the challenges and opportunities of life by covering topics including self-awareness, personal values, character development, leadership, critical thinking, decision-making, financial literacy, career planning, success and happiness; and to educate the Lewis Honors College students regarding the American values of individual liberty, free enterprise, personal responsibility, faith, family, patriotism, intellectual diversity, community engagement and civic responsibility.

Webb is the founder and CEO of AppHarvest, a sustainable foods company developing and operating some of the world’s largest high-tech indoor farms to build an efficient food system. AppHarvest’s farms are designed to grow non-GMO produce using sunshine, 100% rainwater and up to 90% less water than open-field growing, all while producing yields up to 30 times that of traditional agriculture in a climate-resilient growing system. 

After graduating from the UK Gatton College of Business and Economics, Webb spent years developing massive solar projects for the U.S. Department of Defense. During this time, he learned about the Netherlands’ modern, tech-forward system of hydroponic agriculture. This research, coupled with reports that global food production would need to nearly double by 2050 and news of expanding drought and wildfire across the country, led Webb to realize that the American food system required change — fast.   

In February 2017, encouraged by investors, advisers and politicians of both parties, Webb left Washington and returned home to Kentucky with the goal of turning Appalachia into the AgTech capital of America. Webb believed that, by harnessing the best of nature’s capabilities with future-forward technology to grow delicious produce at scale, AppHarvest could tackle systemic supply chain issues while also advocating for modern methods of sustainable farming. He also knew that AppHarvest could reduce environmentally costly diesel emissions incurred during the shipping process by locating closer to consumers, all while delivering more reliably fresh and nutritious fruits and vegetables.

AppHarvest currently operates its flagship farm — about the size of 50 football fields — in Morehead, Kentucky, producing tomatoes. The company is developing a network of farms to produce a variety of vine crops, leafy greens and berries with three more farms currently under construction. 

 In his talk at the Lewis Honors College, Webb encourages students to come with questions. He sees the value in the perspective and opinions of our community members and hopes that his event at Lewis will encourage a dialogue between himself and its attendees. 

"The Lewis Honors College at UK is a hub of creativity, passion and innovation with a mission to build a bridge toward a more resilient Kentucky economy. I want to talk with students about how we can create opportunities that retain homegrown talent while building value across the Commonwealth," Webb said.

For more information on the event, visit www.uky.edu/honors/Webb.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $501 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.