Money is Pouring Into Greenhouse Tech. Its First Business to Go Public is Far From Ripe.

AppHarvest hadn’t grown a single piece of produce when it announced it would be going public through a SPAC reverse merger that values the startup greenhouse at more than $1 billion and has it on track to raise $460 million when it starts trading next week.

Those are pretty tatty numbers for a 60-acre indoor farm that started shipping its first harvest just last week, with batches of organic tomatoes on the vine headed to early investors that include Martha Stewart and bestselling author J.D. Vance, as well as the brand’s first retailers, including Walmart, Kroger, Meijer and Publix. 

Normally, a first harvest wouldn’t be such a big milestone, but for AppHarvest, it’s one of the few tangible measures to look at for the first greenhouse startup looking to test the public markets. If the buzz around the company is any indication, the shares will surge. Shares of Novus, the blank check company AppHarvest is merging with, have risen 130% since the deal was initially announced in September and, as the shareholder vote approaches, is currently trading near an all-time high of $25, giving the company an implied market cap of about $2.5 billion. Investors are hungry for corporate story lines that include any hint of sustainability, and the Morehead, Kentucky-based AppHarvest has that in abundance, using 90% less water than traditional farming, all of it recycled from rain. It has plans to open two more Kentucky greenhouses next year. Still, the company has plenty left to prove. 

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