WESTOVER — Just across the Monongahela River in Westover, Jordon Masters, a native to the state, has been working on what he believes will be a game changer for the Appalachian community.
MicroGenesis was founded by Masters after he won the business plan competition hosted by WVU in 2015. Through the competition and networking, Masters was able to grow his venture.
“It really helped launch everything,” Masters said. “I was a student at the Launch Lab back in 2014, so they were able to help me get to know everyone I needed to know to get funding and get this project off the ground.”
Masters said during the time he was studying at WVU, the farm-to-table movement was taking off. He recognized flaws that came with local farmers competing with corporations.
“The issue then and still now is people want to buy local products, but the quality, consistency and the price points are not really competitive with what somebody would get from Sysco,” Masters said. “I wanted to look at how we can make a product that has consistent quality and is as good or better than what people are currently getting, while still costing the same amount.”
MicroGenesis supplies locations such as the Mountain People’s Co-op, Sargasso, Hill & Hollow,
Table 9, and Morgantown Marriot hotel. It also supplies wholesale distribution through the Crook Brothers, a distributor outside of West Virginia. Masters plans to eventually turn the greenhouse into a model for other farmers in the state.
“Let’s say there is a farmer here in Monongalia County who is primarily a cattle farmer but wants to diversify his agricultural portfolio or supplement his income a little bit more. He can take this model and use it on his farm,” Masters said.
The greenhouse is able to basically operate itself through the technology rooted in it. Masters plans to teach other local farmers how to operate the technology necessary to sustain this type of greenhouse.
“The whole greenhouse operates on a cloud system,” Masters said. “Around the greenhouse, there are about 40 different sensors that monitor everything from temperature and humidity to light and CO2 levels.”
Although the greenhouse can essentially operate itself, the team at MicroGenesis is constantly prototyping new technology to create a smoother growing process.
“We developed the first tabletop-sized harvester, which makes harvesting a breeze,” Masters said. “The robotic seeder, which we are prototyping right now, should be ready in a few months.”
Masters said through the use of technology to monitor each process, it allows for consistency, so each and every plant grown is guaranteed to look identical to the last.
“We are trying to dial in on every single input that the plant needs, so every week the plants look exactly the same,” Masters said.
Along with consistency in taste and color, the plants in the greenhouse have a steady growth time ranging from five days to five weeks, depending on the variety of the plant.
“We sow and harvest every week, so everything is continuously rotating in the greenhouse,” Masters said. “Pretty much every week we sow one-quarter of the greenhouse and we harvest one-quarter of the greenhouse.”
Inside MicroGenesis, there are rows of microgreens, baby greens, herbs and mini heads of romaine lettuce, but because of its innovative design, the possibilities of what can be grown are endless.
“The irrigation system we designed is a hybrid system, so its hydroponic and non-hydroponic, but the beauty is it can grow whatever I want it to,” Masters said.
Looking forward, Masters hopes to see his project benefit other local farmers throughout West Virginia.
“We want to spread out amongst the state, so instead of having 100 acres of greenhouse under one roof, we have 100 acres of greenhouse amongst a whole group of farmers,” Masters said. “We wanted to do that, so we can develop what will probably end up being an agricultural revolution.”
This story was provided by Gabriella Brown