Betterment Harvest: Ag-Tech in Appalachia
We are at the forefront of a transformational shift throughout the Appalachian region and parts of the Midwest. As the United States incrementally and increasingly migrates away from fossil fuels as an energy source, the region has been left with a tremendous void in terms of lost economic opportunity.
The coal industry was once both the prominent source of energy in the U.S. and a major economic driver for this region. Today, thermal coal accounts for approximately 20 percent of the country’s generated electricity; down from approximately 40 percent in 2014. Due to specific mining conditions and cost structures, thermal coal mined from most of the Appalachian region has fallen below the economic margin, and much of the industry in the region has been forced into bankruptcies and out of business.
The downturn in the thermal coal industry has not only left the region with a void of economic opportunity and a declining tax base, but the associated coal mining bankruptcies have left a mounting number of abandoned and unfunded and under-funded environmental liabilities.
Land Betterment Corporation, a pending B-Corp, focuses on environmental solutions and a commitment to positive social and environmental impact by upcycling former coal mining and industrial sites to create sustainable community development and job creation. The company is taking a fresh yet practical approach in bringing real solutions to address these problems. Land Betterment’s two main divisions, Environmental Solutions and Sustainable Development, take a customized and holistic approach to remediate lands left behind by the legacy of the coal mining industry and other industrial activity, and repurpose certain parcels of land to bring business and jobs that fit a more modern-day economy. These new business lines focus on rebuilding or introducing an economic ecosystem in the region that is more sustainable and create jobs that are desired and fit the skillset of the local, yet displaced work force. The Company currently has Sustainable Business lines that include industries such as recycling, container-based housing, craft spirits, bee farming and Ag-Tech.
As a small example of Land Betterment’s work, its Ag-Tech division, Betterment Harvest, is currently building on the regional momentum to bring a scalable and community-based approach to sustainable agriculture which utilizes state-of-the-art, science-based practices that maximize productivity and profit while minimizing environmental damage. These technologies include a range of applications, such as indoor hydroponic systems installed in renovated and repurposed existing industrial buildings selectively positioned throughout eastern Kentucky. This sustainable development exemplifies how Land Betterment repurposes prior industrial sites left by a declining industry into new technologies that the community can embrace.
As another example, Land Betterment recently successfully bid to acquire control of a shutdown elementary school in Perry County, Kentucky. Land Betterment plans to renovate the Willard Elementary School, which was closed in 2018, and repurpose the school and surrounding property into an ag-tech center to focus on vertical and greenhouse farming. The closed school has approximately 4 acres of developable land which Land Betterment plans to upcycle into a local agriculture tech center and utilize the interior of the school for sophisticated vertical and greenhouse farming to grow various produce and plant propagation.
On this particular acquisition, Mark Jensen, Land Betterment’s Executive Chairmen commented that “We are really excited about the development of our Betterment Harvest division and the local adoption we are seeing. The Willard School is a great example of how we are approaching the Ag-Tech industry. The local community was happy to see the shutdown school repurposed for economic and community development. The region has a ton of old infrastructure and mining lands in need of environmental repair. We see the potential that these lands have in other industries, such as agriculture, and the region is in need of an economic shot in the arm. Additionally, the Appalachian region makes for an ideal Ag-Tech hub as its location places it within a one day drive of the majority of the U.S. population. The highly skilled, local workforce is excited about new opportunities, and we are excited to bring a scalable and solution-based approach to support the regional momentum in the Ag-Tech industry. The Appalachian region and the U.S, as a whole needs better access to healthy foods. With the U.S. increasingly relying on food imports, an efficient and sustainable agriculture hub in Appalachia address a lot of problems. For one, it reduces the transportation and diesel use of imported produce. It also helps in rejuvenating a region with a real and positive impact. We’re not just providing fresh produce and jobs to the communities; we’re also teaching future generations about agriculture and health”
To help advance Land Betterment’s business model in this region of the United States, the Company currently has access to over 13,000 acres of land to help foster new industry. Land Betterment is also working with the local technical college to support the activity of its Ag-Tech operations as well as to promote the education and relevant technical skill development. Mr. Jensen added, “We are excited to be at the forefront of the tremendous potential for the region to develop sustainable business practices to address some of the regional and national problems.”
Click here to learn more about Land Betterment and its impact investment opportunities.
Article by Mark LaVerghetta After spending 20 plus years on sales side securities advisory, Mark has been dedicated to delivering shareholder and stakeholder value. As for the Vice President of Corporate Finance and Communication for American Resources Corp (Nasdaq: AREC) he drives retail and institutional investor communication and strategy. As a Co-Founder and Chief Governance Officer of Land Betterment (Private pending B-Corp) he ensures proper operational and corporate governance while growing sustainable businesses. Mark is a graduate of University of Virginia with a B.A. in economics while playing varsity Lacrosse.