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Institute Launches First Commercial Venture

Monday, August 19, 2013  
Posted by: Sherri Halloran
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The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research has launched its first official commercial venture, Dan River Plants. 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 Research ISSR)ISRR was created as a result of collaboration between the College of Agricultrure 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.


The tissue culture operation started with a handful of clients and varieties, but has expanded rapidly since the hiring last year of Mark Osborne as General Manager.


"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.”

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