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AppHarvest, a Morehead, Ky.-based developer of large-scale tomato greenhouses, is going public

AppHarvest, a Morehead, Ky.-based developer of large-scale tomato greenhouses, is going public via a reverse merger with a SPAC called Novus Capital (Nasdaq: NOVSU). The company would have an initial market value of around $1 billion.

Why it's a BFD: This is about to be a "unicorn" based in one of America's poorest congressional districts. AppHarvest CEO Jonathan Webb tells Axios that the company will employ around 350 people in Morehead by year-end, and that its location allows its product to reach 75% of the continental U.S. within a one-day drive.

  • Details: The merger would include $375 million in new equity commitments from Fidelity, Inclusive Capital, and Novus Capital. AppHarvest previously raised around $160 million in VC funding firms firms like ValueAct Capital, Revolution Rise of the Rest, and Equilibrium Capital.
  • AppHarvest directors include Martha Stewart, J.D. Vance, Jeff Ubben, and Impossible Foods CFO David Lee.
  • The bottom line: “We looked at lots of ag startups, but a lot of time we found a desire to build tech for its own sake without a really good business model or understanding of how to bring the produce to market. But here they already had distribution agreements and were growing produce at scale with defensible margins.” — J.D. Vance, AppHarvest director and early investor, tells Axios

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When Aileen Lee originally coined the term "unicorn" in late 2013, she was describing the 39 "U.S.-based software companies started since 2003 and valued at over $1 billion by public or private market investors."

Flashback: It got redefined in early 2015 by yours truly and Erin Griffith, in a cover story for Fortune, as any privately-held startup valued at $1 billion or more. At the time, we counted 80 of them.

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