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Green and Growing: GreenTechnologies

Dr. Amir Varshovi, founder and CEO of GreenTechnologies,

In 1999, Dr. Amir Varshovi, founder and CEO of GreenTechnologies, faced a tough choice. He could go with the bird in his hand, uproot his family from their comfortable Gainesville, Florida lifestyle and relocate to New Jersey where a new job awaited him with the corporation that had just purchased his employer of nearly three years. Alternatively, he could make a leap of faith and select the proverbial birds in the bush, which in this case, turned out to be more like birds in a muck field.

Varshovi elected to pursue the flock in the muck field. With this choice came the formidable path of securing patents, building a business from the ground up and bootstrapping his company’s development and launch phase with loans and guidance from the Small Business Administration. Along with a great deal of hard work and persistence, his path to success even necessitated that he and his wife secure a second mortgage on their residence, a choice that his conservative parents would have considered unthinkable.

The Green Team

Fueled by aspirations of becoming an American scientist, Iranian born Amir Varshovi immigrated to the United States at the age of eighteen. In achieving his goal, he received a Bachelor of Science in chemistry from the University of South Florida and a Master of Science and PhD in Soil and Water Science from the University of Florida.

Over the years, much of his academic research involved studying the agronomic and environmental impact of commercial fertilizers. The more Varshovi learned about the potential downside of many commercial products the more focused he became on his goal of turning wastewater byproducts into safe and effective slow-release organic fertilizers.

Marla Buchanan

Assisting him during his years at the University of Florida in the Soil and Water Science Department was law student Marla Buchanan. Like many chapters in GreenTechnologies’ story, Buchanan’s role has come full circle. After graduating from law school, becoming a member of the Florida Bar and building a lucrative, rewarding and highly respected career as a shareholder of the Jacksonville law firm of Rogers Towers, PA. Buchanan left the law firm in 2013 and joined GreenTechnologies full time as the company’s Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel.

Although Varshovi may have approached his business venture more boldly than his own father would have done, he didn’t stray far from his conservative roots. GreenTechnologies has grown carefully, strategically and in many ways, humbly. The business began in Varshovi’s garage and in filling his first order from a golf course, he drove the four-plus hours from Gainesville to Naples, Florida to hand deliver the fertilizer personally.

Buchanan took on the task of learning how to set up and operate a fledgling business, and the two of them relied heavily on the free guidance offered by the U.S. Government via the SBA. At every step along the way, Varshovi has modestly deflected his company’s success away from his own accomplishments, attributing it instead to the work of his team and the simple fact that many elements have come together in the right way to make his thriving business possible. “Our continued success,” said Varshovi, “is based on listening to our customers’ needs for cost effective sustainable products that are agronomically superior and environmentally sound.”

Back Nine, Back Yard or Back Forty

If ever there was a circle of life concept, it is that of nutrient recycling. In the same way that nutrients naturally move from the environment into a living organism and then back again into the environment, recycling enables nutrient-rich by-products, derived from the solids and semi-solids of wastewater treatment, to be repurposed effectively as pelletized organic fertilizers. These highly efficient fertilizers benefit golf courses, residential lawns and commercial landscaping applications, but it is their value in enriching farm and garden soil and the foods we eat that makes the circle of life analogy so fitting.

GreenTechnologies’ patented process utilizes Class A bio-solids from water reclamation facilities. Participating communities find they can decrease the acreage needed for landfills and waste processing. Administering resources more efficiently and reducing the time, land area and costs associated with solid waste management becomes ever more important as municipal budgets shrink and environmental regulations tighten.

For golf course applications, GreenTechnologies GreenEdge® commercial fertilizers are available in a variety of formulations. In addition to enhancing the soil with organic matter, GreenEdge products eliminate the nutrient leaching and runoff that can be associated with synthetic products.

GreenEdge granules are appropriately small for golf course use, yet they hold ten times their weight in water-retaining moisture within the soil, break down completely and release one hundred percent of their natural nutrients through an initial response followed by an extended period of slow-release. For superintendents, this process translates to less water, less fertilization and less work, which, of course, means lower costs.

Green … Greener … Greenest

As Varshovi has noted, many events have come together in the right way for GreenTechnologies. In 2001, Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA) began providing Varshovi with the waste byproducts the company needs for producing its fertilizer.

GreenTechnologies then opened a ten-employee, twenty-five-acre facility. Today, the company has expanded its work with JEA and other municipalities to a fifteen-person operation and a one hundred-acre property. Currently, further growth is underway at the site, including the construction of three buildings designed to provide roughly 40,000 square feet under roof for a new blending and packaging facility.

Over the years, as the company’s U.S. business grew, Varshovi expanded his sights and returned to the Small Business Administration for guidance. In 2010, GreenTechnologies received an SBA grant to create a specialized marketing and business plan for exporting its fertilizer internationally. Today, with clients throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, the company has not only expanded its client base and potential market but also has reduced the seasonal ebb and flow that occurs when serving only clients in the northern hemisphere.

Amir Varshovi has seen his vision grow from a start-up to a successful international business. Along the way, the State of Florida honored him as the 2014 Small Business Person of the Year. Last year, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded Green Technologies a Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) PHASE I Award to advance the company’s development of a sustainable nutrient removal, recovery and conversion system.

As golf course superintendents know all too well, phosphorus, as a contaminant in runoff water, exacerbates algae bloom, which subsequently reduces oxygen in ponds and lakes. “Dead” lakes are not only the bane of turf managers, they are also one of the most problematic and costly environmental challenges they face today.

On the other side of the issue, phosphorus is a vital micronutrient that is critical both to humans and to plants for growth and development. GreenTechnologies is working with the University of Florida to develop and commercialize technology that removes phosphorus overload in impaired water bodies while also allowing for the recycling of these recovered nutrients as environmentally friendly, slow-release fertilizer.

Buchanan summarized the company’s direction for the future. “GreenTechnologies is committed to recovering valuable resources that are lost to the environment and utilizing our advanced technologies to upcycle them into high performing fertilizers that replenish the soil with valuable organics and provide essential nutrients for plant growth.”

You could say GreenTechnologies is always focused on making green even greener. For more information go to their website at
www.green-edge.com.

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