AppHarvest Names New CEO

Indoor-farming company elevates COO Tony Martin
Marian Zboraj
Digital Editor
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Tony Martin
Tony Martin

High-tech indoor farming company AppHarvest, Inc., has named controlled environment agriculture (CEA) veteran Tony Martin its CEO effective immediately. Martin will help accelerate the company's strategic plan, Project New Leaf, which has shown strong progress toward operational efficiencies resulting in higher sales, cost savings and product quality as the company works to increase production across its four-farm network.

Martin has served as an AppHarvest board member since October 2022 and as COO since January of this year. He joined AppHarvest following a nearly 12-year career with Windset Farms, one of the largest CEA producers and marketers of indoor-grown crops in North America with more than 250 acres in the U.S. and Canada. At Windset, he supported both significant infrastructure and revenue growth. Martin has served as a consultant in the CEA sector and is a board member of the Fruit & Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corp., a non-profit that sets standards for the trade of fresh fruits and vegetables in Canada. He also serves on the board of Natureripe Farms, the second largest strawberry producer in North America, and is a partner in GA Partners, which consults on agricultural operations and assisting businesses in transition.

Project New Leaf strategic plan focuses on improving labor efficiency, better leveraging industry relationships and expertise, implementing disciplined cost control, improving the feedback loop across the organization and aligning the workforce to the five-year plan.

“I’m seeing a maturity building in the organization to better manage issues and to mitigate any material impact from challenges," said Martin. "We’re working more collaboratively, which is delivering cost savings and driving product quality. The mission and purpose behind AppHarvest have brought a tremendous amount of talent to the team, and I expect to see more operational efficiencies leading to increased performance throughout the year.”

[Read more: “AeroFarms Is Pursuing Sale of Business”]

Kevin Willis, who has served on the AppHarvest board since February of 2022, will assume the position of board chair. Willis currently serves as SVP and CFO of Ashland, a global specialty materials company.

AppHarvest Founder Jonathan Webb transitions from his previous roles as chairman and CEO to become chief strategy officer. He remains on the board as a director. “I founded AppHarvest based on a mission to improve domestic food security by farming more sustainably with climate-resilient practices while providing economic opportunity in Central Appalachia,” said Webb. “Thanks to the AppHarvest team and the tenacity of the people of Kentucky, we undertook the largest simultaneous buildout of CEA infrastructure in U.S. history and worked to put the region on the map as a hub for AgTech drawing more CEA investment to the state. While I will continue to support the company, I am confident that Tony’s leadership, extensive background in CEA and track record for optimizing revenue growth will provide the guidance the company needs at this inflection point.”

“In the brief time Tony has served as COO, he already has shaped a culture of measurement, accountability, collaboration, responsiveness and learning, and the board welcomes his leadership in the role of CEO,” said AppHarvest Board Chair Kevin Willis. “Jonathan’s vision to set a new standard in sustainable farming has brought attention to the need for climate-resilient agriculture that helps ensure domestic food security with a more sustainable footprint that’s better for people and planet. The board and I thank Jonathan for his service as CEO and chair and appreciate his continued efforts to support the company.”

AppHarvest is a sustainable food company in Appalachia developing and operating some of the world’s largest high-tech indoor farms with high levels of automation to build a reliable, climate-resilient food system. AppHarvest says its  farms are designed to grow produce using sunshine, rainwater and up to 90% less water than open-field growing, all while producing yields up to 30 times that of traditional agriculture and preventing pollution from agricultural runoff. The company currently operates its 60-acre flagship farm in Morehead, Ky., producing tomatoes; a 15-acre indoor farm for salad greens in Berea, Ky.; a 30-acre farm for strawberries and cucumbers in Somerset, Ky.; and a 60-acre farm in Richmond, Ky., for tomatoes. The four-farm network consists of 165 acres.

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