With green on their minds, a pair of Hokies recently launched a startup they hope will prove to be a fertile business.
Virginia Tech grads Mark Tavares and Alex Kepner this summer started Project Green, a lawn care company that uses mostly organic products to provide seed germination, environmentally friendly weed control, and plant health and root improvement.
Tavares, who studied turf grass management at Tech and works at Aquarius Supply as a turf consultant, said the idea for Project Green came from a desire to find a greener way to care for lawns. He said many companies use mostly synthetic products that can be harmful to the environment. He said many synthetic products keep lawns looking green without making them healthier.
“You’re not doing anything for the soil,” Tavares said. “All you’re doing is feeding what’s there.”
Project Green sees potential in the use of bionutrients, which break down nutrients in soil to make them available to plants. Tavares said a Pennsylvania company called Holganix designed Project Green’s bionutrients to use microbes that are indigenous to Virginia. If microbes are not indigenous or are from some other state, for example, they can get killed off instead of helping the soil make the most of its nutrients, Tavares said.
For the past two years, Tavares has used his Hanover yard as a testing ground to find the best combination of Holganix bionutrients and other organic lawn fertilizers and figure out the best time of the year to use the products.
“With organic products, there are more that don’t work well than do,” Tavares said. “I’ve been using our product on my yard as a test – it’s been working well, and it was time to roll it out.”
Tavares said it has cost about $75,000 to get Project Green off the ground, funded by personal savings and financing from a local investor. Kepner, who studied marketing at Virginia Tech, is now full-time with Project Green, and they’ve purchased one truck fit with a custom-built tank and two trailers to carry equipment.
Project Green’s service area runs from Ladysmith to Chesterfield and from Mechanicsville to Goochland. In attempt to get in front of more homeowners as they compete against more established companies like Virginia Green Lawn Care Co. and Grass Roots Lawn Care, Tavares and Kepner have set up a stand at the Farmers Market at St. Stephen’s.
Project Green has so far built a base of about 75 customers – the goal is to grow to about 400 customers by this time next year.
Tavares said Project Green’s customer service and emphasis on the environment will help set it apart in the competitive field.
“We want to give special attention the homeowner deserves,” Tavares said. “We don’t want to come spray the yard, throw a stake in it, and leave.”
Thank you for an excellent article which explained the environmental positives in an understandable way!! My son is Mark and he is so passionate about helping the environment! You should see his yard– it is a real experimental laboratory!!! So happy his sweet wife is in agreement with his goals!! Haha Thank you for writing the article!