This week, as venture-backed agricultural technology startup AppHarvest's first harvest was shipped to nationwide grocery chains, its new president, David Lee, said he was "so certain in its new success."
Lee, formerly CFO of Impossible Foods and senior vice president of consumer products at Del Monte Foods, told Business Insider he "[wants] to launch a few more businesses in [his] career." He joined the board of AppHarvest in August 2020 and was named president January 7. He begins work on January 25.
- Kentucky-based AppHarvest's first shipment marks an inflection point for its growth. In September, the agtech announced plans to go public through a $1 billion merger with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), Novus Capital Corp. The deal is expected to close in the coming weeks, and provide AppHarvest with $475 million in financing, according to Business Insider.
AppHarvest is the first greenhouse company to go public through a reverse IPO, according to industry publication HortiDaily. In a virtual press conference Tuesday, Lee said the process will help the company reach its goal of operating 12 greenhouse facilities by 2025.
"Before our decision to go public, the company had raised a fair amount of money, but with the opportunity to be listed publicly, we'll have ten times more capital and we'll have the ability to attract the very best public investors," he said, HortiDaily reported. "It's a wonderful fit that allows us to educate early, to get the proceeds quickly to plow back into the growth of the business and the mission."
To date, AppHarvest has raised $150 million in capital, including $28 million from its August Series C round. "[AppHarvest] is in such a strong position," Lee told Insider. "It will not miss a beat."
Lee oversaw capital raising as finance chief of fast-growing Impossible Foods; in that company's latest funding round shortly before his departure, it raised $200 million, bringing its total investment to just shy $1.5 billion.
The team he built at Impossible is "incredibly strong," Lee said. "It's almost as if I was given the luxury of being able to go pick my next grand adventure."
Lee pointed to his time at Del Monte and Impossible Foods as critical to the role he will assume at AppHarvest.
"I've long believed that if you combine technology, a consumer brand, and access to the best investors, you can change the world," Lee told Cheddar on Wednesday. "That consumers will determine the future for the better."
Lee added that, in his new role, he hopes to take CEO Jonathan Webb's "incredible mission and company and turn it into a real at-scale global force for good."
"While we intend to solve a global problem, we're starting very focused on these tomatoes that are being harvested this week and continuously from here on out," Lee said. "But as you saw us, as a team, do at Impossible, and even from my former days at Del Monte, we believe consumers have long been waiting for a better brand, not just a better brand of tomatoes, but for a better brand of company, a company that stands for a living wage for employees, better products for consumers, and a better way of doing business."
Representatives for AppHarvest and for Lee did not respond to requests for comment.