They are a diverse group of business and community leaders in Jefferson, St. Lawrence, and Lewis counties. Together, NNY Business magazine’s 20 Under 40 Class of 2012 easily represents a who’s who of young professionals, each working to be the best in their fields while giving more of themselves to their communities, volunteering their time to improve life for all who live in the north country.
By Sonia Lindell
At a Time when the Empire State struggles to keep startups (and the entrepreneurs behind them) in-state, it is refreshing to hear of research that has been successfully commercialized and kept in New York. Such is the case with Blue Sphere Industries, a company started by Clarkson university students Daegan Gonyer, Sean Bonnell and Shaun Jones.
Blue Sphere Industries embraces aeroponic agriculture- a concept in which crops can be grown without the use of soil or other mediums- combined with the use of a controlled environment high rise farm, a building with multiple rooms suited for plant growth. Utilizing this form of farming allows for products to be cultivated in otherwise barren locations, such as urban centers or cold-weather regions. The project, Controlled Environment High Rise Farm, was developed at Clarkson and initially conceived by Daegan Gonyer in 2008. According to a website devoted to the project, the systems “includes the pilot scale greenhouse, an anaerobic digester and an energy cabin that employs both solar hot water and wood pellet heating capabilities for sustainable cold-season and locally grown product.”
When asked how he came up with the idea, Gonyer said, “I grew up in a small town and used to work on one of the farms. The growing season was only five months in a good year, other years the filed had to be replanted three or more times from late frosts, flooding, etc. One day I started thinking about all the problems with food … how much water it uses, how much we throw away, how seven or more months out of the year we have to transport it across country, how fertilizer delivery is completely inefficient and how it affects the water table. I read an article on vertical farming, which had some good ideas but the energy balance was way off, and a lot of it wasn’t practical. I thought I could do a better job, and here we are … We can grow food crops from lettuce to citrus in any climate, in a modular vertical system, using at least 90 percent less water, 60 percent less nutrients, and in an environmentally responsible system that actually removes part of the local waste stream. And we can do it with and 83 percent gross profit margin.”
Gonyer received several accolades since the inception of his idea, including the university’s Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award; Blue Sphere Industries has also been selected as the first recipient of the Sprout Foundation Loan Fund, a revolving loan fund dedicated to supporting organizations that are focused on children and a healthy environment. Clarkson has been a member of The Business Council since 1986.
Gillibrand announces legislation at Clarkson to help ideas boost the economy
August 18, 2012
Legislation announced by U.S. Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand at Clarkson University Friday could help Daegan A. Gonyer’s Blue Sphere Industries and its aeroponic plant growing units help feed the world one day.
Instead of using soil or hydroponics, Blue Sphere — one of the startup companies in Clarkson’s Shipley Center for Innovation — mists plant roots at high pressure with the nutrients they need. The vertically stackable units give plants the breathing room to grow 25 percent faster than in soil without the use of pesticides.
Clarkson University Students in the EPA National Sustainable Design Expo
May 4, 2012
Three teams of Clarkson University students celebrated Earth Day on April 22 by participating in the eighth annual EPA National Sustainable Design Expo on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The event recognizes the important aspects of sustainability through commitment to people, prosperity and the planet (P3).