Janesville69.2°

Recession curtails plans by RecyGrow

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JAMES P. LEUTE
July 19, 2010
— A start-up company that once planned to grow 500 sustainable green jobs in Janesville is in operation, but on a much smaller scale.

The four partners in RecyGrow announced in April 2009 that they wanted to build a production facility and greenhouses in Janesville to use green technologies to grow plant life from processed recycled materials.


At the time, the partners said they’d need state support for green jobs that government officials clamored to grow.


But for several reasons, the government contracts haven’t taken root, and the company couldn’t get the land it needed in Janesville with its limited initial investment.


RecyGrow’s four-person partnership is down to two, and the recent recession has slowed the company’s growth plans.


The two partners bought a 15-acre farm on Highway 81 west of Beloit that now offers landscaping services and nursery stock.


Darren Kennedy said it’s a slow start to what he still believes is an exciting opportunity.


“We’ve been able to experiment a little bit with field growing our product outside, which is really the way to make it profitable and open a lot of doors,” he said.


Initially, RecyGrow’s plan was to grow sod and other groundcover plants indoors on layered racks under grow lights. Growing indoors offers several advantages, Kennedy said, including a controlled climate and year-round production.


Kennedy has estimated sod to be a $1 billion business in the United States, but it’s fragmented among regional farms that ship within a 200-mile radius. RecyGrow’s lighter product could be shipped thousands of miles at lower costs.


RecyGrow representatives have met with various state officials to discuss erosion control and shoreline restoration applications. The green roof industry also offers potential.


“(Assembly Speaker) Mike Sheridan has helped us a ton,” Kennedy said. “We’ve met with the top people in the various departments and they loved the idea.


“But the farther you go down in the bureaucracy, the more you get passed around.”


Kennedy said the company also is making connections through its involvement with BioForward, a Madison-based association of biotechnology companies and organizations. The association helps its members attract capital and partners to grow business.


That’s important as the recent recession hindered access to capital, Kennedy said.


“We’ve basically just chalked this year up to research and development,” Kennedy said. “While it’s been tough, we’re hoping to get into position for when we get out of this and things turn around.”



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