Dan River Plants created to develop plants for bio-energy - American Nurseryman Magazine - Horticulture Magazine and Horticulture Books - Dan River Plants created to develop plants for bio-energy

Dan River Plants created to develop plants for bio-energy


The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Virginia has launched its first official commercial venture, Dan River Plants, as a limited liability company. The lab uses tissue culture technology to replicate high value horticulture and grasses that can be converted into bio-energy. Dan River Plants has secured propagation contracts with several wholesale growers and nurseries, and has expanded its product list to nearly one hundred varieties. As a result, the company plans to move its headquarters from the Institute campus to the Ringgold East Industrial Park by spring 2014, and will soon begin hiring as many as 40 propagation technicians over the next few years.

"The expansion of Dan River Plants as a limited liability company proves that the technology developed at the Institute translates into economic impact for Southern Virginia. Danville will be recognized as a leader in modern, innovative ag-based business," said Jerry Gwaltney, Acting Executive Director of the Institute.
Dan River Plants is rooted in technology developed by the Institute for Sustainable and Renewable Resources (ISRR). ISRR was created as a result of collaboration between the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech and the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research.  Researchers at ISRR pioneered a technique known as micropropagation. The technology was proven in the field, leading to an investment by the Danville Regional Foundation of $1.2 Million in start-up funds in January 2011.
"I applaud the entrepreneurial spirit of Dan River Plants leadership and the important work they've done with IALR and Virginia Tech to further boost Virginia's diverse agricultural economy," said Todd Haymore, Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry.

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services worked with Pittsylvania County and IALR to help convert the organization into a commercial business. Governor McDonnell approved a $150,000 matching grant from the Governor's Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund to assist Pittsylvania with the project. McDonnell says this type of economic development is part of an overall focus on rural areas. "Dan River Plants' project highlights the high-level of cooperation in the Commonwealth between our research universities, the private sector, and our local and regional economic development allies. It also underscores the economic transformation taking place in Southern Virginia as the region leverages its agricultural and manufacturing heritage to create employment opportunities using modern technology."

Dan River Plants is receiving additional assistance through the State's Enterprise Zone Program and through its Virginia Jobs Investment Program; the Virginia Department of Business Assistance will provide funding and services to support the company's recruitment, training and retraining activities.

"These contributions are an important part of the overall equation that will lead to the success of the endeavor," said Institute Deputy Director Michael Duncan.

"Dan River Plants is the culmination of a vision developed at Virginia Tech, technology created here at the Institute, and strategic investments at the state and local levels," Gwaltney added. "We are leveraging those funds to create jobs and a viable business moving forward."

The tissue culture operation started with a handful of clients and varieties, but has expanded rapidly since the hiring last year or Mark Osborne as General Manager. Dan River Plants now offers more than thirty types of plants comprising nearly one hundred overall varieties "Dan River Plants is the only commercial tissue culture lab in Virginia or a bordering state. One advantage we have is geography but, we also work with perennial breeders and can provide better customer service," said Osborne. "The workforce will grow quickly and I am committed to creating several dozen jobs over the next few years. Someone with horticultural or agricultural experience would be considered a plus but it is not a requirement, I can train the right person to do this work."

Duncan explains why the increase in business and eventually its workforce demand that Dan River Plants move to a larger space. "The new facility is designed to allow DRP to handle a minimum of 5 million plants per year.  The campus facilities kept the number to less than one million.  Given the backlog already exceeds one million plants, moving to another site is a necessity."

Construction and site work are expected to begin in August on the new home of Dan River Plants in Ringgold East Industrial Park.