RecyGrow scales back plans for Janesville
The four partners in RecyGrow plan to build a production facility and greenhouses on a 4-acre parcel on the city’s south side.
When the company is up and running next spring, it will employ about 50 people, said Darren Kennedy, the company’s marketing officer.
Since announcing in April plans to create a company supported by 500 workers, RecyGrow’s partners have been meeting with state agencies to map out markets for the company that will use green technologies to grow plant life from processed recycled materials.
The company continues to work with state transportation officials on erosion control products. It also is working with other players in the green roof industry.
Both channels, however, will take a couple of years to navigate, Kennedy said.
In the short term, the company is focusing on shoreline restoration products.
“We’re starting small, and this is what the partners can do without any immediate assistance,” Kennedy said. “The wetland restoration work will give us initial credibility as a business in Janesville.”
For years, the state’s Department of Natural Resources has pushed the use of riprap as the solution to a variety of shoreline and wetland restoration problems.
But the emergence of Eurasian water milfoil has created new water quality issues. One DNR solution is an herbivorous weevil that eats the milfoil.
Kennedy said the weevils need a soft habitat for winter hibernation, which riprap can’t provide. He said the DNR is considering the use of a cranberry peat fill fronted by soft bio-logs. RecyGrow’s vegetation mats then would be stapled to the bio-logs
“It’s a total change in approach for the DNR, and it could be a home run for us,” Kennedy said. “Plus, our mats would provide habitat for wildlife and serve as a natural filter between the shore and the water.”
On a grander scale, RecyGrow is investigating the convergence of its green technologies with the ethanol industry.
Hot water used in the ethanol production process could heat RecyGrow’s greenhouses, he said. Bugs introduced to eat ethanol mash produce high-quality methane that could be used to offset natural gas usage at ethanol plants. In addition, mash produces byproducts that could be used as fertilizers, he said, and the water used in that process could hydrate RecyGrow’s products.
Kennedy isn’t proposing an ethanol plant for Janesville’s south side, but the company is investigating partnerships with plants that could boost its wetland, roadway erosion and green roof businesses and elevate employee counts.
“The technology is all in place,” he said. “Now is the time to put some heat on the state and get some of these programs going.
“Wisconsin is a pilot state for green, and what do we have to show for it? There’s a lot of federal money going into these programs, and as a state we better step up and start doing something.”