The story of how an industry comes together to strengthen communities through technology, job opportunities and education.

During the very early months of the pandemic, our friends at AppHarvest came to us with a challenge. They wanted to know if Hort Americas could help them source lights that were:

1. Made in the USA.

2. Made in the Appalachian region.

3. Made at a cost equal or less than the competition offers. 

In May 2020, this was a BIG ask.  Most companies were not thinking about new initiatives, especially anything that might add cost or require major investment. Due to the pandemic, most U.S.-based companies were more focused on applying for PPP or cutting costs as protection from an uncertain future and shrinking sales.  

Thankfully, we all had plenty of time at our desk. So we placed a few phone calls to see what we could make happen. Our first call was to Current (when it comes to lighting, they are always our first call).  Truth be told, we expected a quick “no” and possibly a more emphatic “hell no.”  Instead what we heard was, “well (long pause), maybe (long pause) let us make some phone calls.”

This then led to a crazy 12 months. During this time,  we assessed and identified needs while uncovering what was possible. To say that any of the parties knew exactly what they were agreeing to would be completely misleading. Everyone was simply saying yes to an amazing opportunity.

“If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later.”
~Richard Branson

Opportunity surrounds us all, all of the time.  The key in this situation was that all parties involved were ready, willing and able to take advantage of the opportunity when it presented itself.  

Trust in business is something that should never be undervalued.  There has to be  a customer willing to trust a supplier to do what they say they can based on both a history of performance and transparency in the process.  There also has to be trust from the supplier.  Trust that the customer’s non-legally binding agreement would lead to a purchase that would justify an investment during a time of uncertainty.

Commitment is so underrated today, but it is so vitally important.  Whether it be commitment to creating positive change in a community or a commitment to excellence through innovation, commitment will be needed when things look like they might not be going right or it might seem like there is a roadblock keeping you from reaching your goals.

All three parties in this journey shared equally in commitment, trust and a willingness to take advantage of an amazing opportunity.

For $30 you can join the movement!

Proceeds will be donated to World Central Kitchen.

AppHarvest made a commitment to two companies that they knew very well, but had not yet installed LED grow lights in what will soon become one of the largest commercial horticulture investments in the United States.

Current put its trust in two companies to deliver on an opportunity that completely changed the way and location in which they manufactured new LED grow light product lines.

Hort Americas pushed hard to make sure opportunities were not missed. Opportunities to bring manufacturing back to the USA. Opportunities to help their business partner develop new generations of already good technology.  And opportunities to help a customer deliver on its mission to bring jobs and food production back to the Appalachian region.

The Ohio State University Controlled Environment Food Production Research Complex (CEFPRC) will be installing LED grow lights made in Hendersonville, North Carolina.  The CEFPRC will provide a platform for interdisciplinary research at the nexus of horticulture and crop science, engineering, entomology, plant pathology, food science, computer science, and human nutrition/health.

The NCSU Controlled Environment (NCSU-CE) research lab focuses on the efficient application of indoor systems. Extensive research on the impact of light environment and its interaction with other environmental variables to optimized production in controlled environment systems. Research efforts include environmental optimization, molecular breeding specific for CE systems, alternative crops, propagation, plant growth modeling, and resource-use-efficiency.

PHLORA controlled environment solutions is an innovative company with headquarters in Raleigh NC focused on the development and deployment of indoor controlled environment technologies and solutions specifically to produce enhanced/conditioned young plants (propagation). PHLORA works with propagators to help growers (Field, Greenhouse, Vertical Farms) reduce production risks and increase production efficiencies with a designed young plant to fit their needs.

NC State Horticultural Science: Our faculty and students conduct cutting-edge research that increases the quality and variety of fruits, vegetables and ornamental plants available to consumers worldwide. We are experts in the science, art, technology and business of growing plants. And the demand for our services is growing.

AgHC promotes the economic development of agriculture and agribusiness in Henderson County. A public and privately funded non-profit organization assisting new and existing operations to foster growth in the industry through identifying production and market opportunities, promotion, education, advocacy, utilization of financial resources, gathering and sharing of pertinent information and by coordinating ag-related development

Located just outside of Pittsburgh, the largest city of Appalachia, Fifth Season is an almost totally automated, Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) vertical farm. Featuring end-to-end automation with very little human interaction – including a truly awe-inspiring, entirely human-free biodome grow room – Fifth Season’s 60,000 sq. ft. pilot facility is a wonder of technological innovation.

Farms proudly using lights made in Hendersonville, NC

“At Hort Americas strong business partnerships are at the foundation of our company.  We search for and strive to establish partnerships based on trust and dedication to the betterment of the whole.  We know the right partnerships allow us to accomplish more together than we ever could imagine on our own.” 
~ Chris Higgins, President of Hort Americas, LLC

“As a grower, we have to consider several factors to maximize crop production and yield. One factor we pay close attention to is the management of light.
With the Current LED grow lights, we have found several benefits such as dimmable intensities and energy efficiency giving us the benefits for higher production, plant development, earlier crops, better climate control and energy savings.
~ Jose “Pepe” Calderon, Head Grower

So what does AppLit mean?

It means that food production in the Appalachian region is now lit by lights built in the Appalachians by companies focused on bringing excellent opportunities to their communities by focusing on the economic condition, health and happiness of the people who power the region. 

Important note:  We are now working with New Frontier to tell this story.  New Frontier is the next great outdoor American apparel brand emerging from Eastern, Kentucky and Appalachia.

Read more about AppLit

What Makes Henderson County, N.C., So Ideal For Controlled Environment Agriculture? on

Looking for LED grow lights made in the United States? on

IN THE NEWS: Eastern Kentucky company growing local economy by growing vegetables year-round on WCHS TV

IN THE NEWS: AppHarvest’s Mega-Indoor Farm Offers Economic Alternative To Coal Mining For Appalachia on Forbes

Disclaimer:  All parties mentioned in this article are independent companies and operate based on what’s best for their individual shareholders, investors or owners.This story is not an indication of financial commitments between companies, only a highlight of what can be accomplished when companies share similar missions and passions for positive change.

“AppLit” is a trademark of Hort Americas.
©Hort Americas