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From ashes to microbes in Glen Mills: Organic lawn nutrient maker Holganix projects $3M in revenue

It's not Texas tea, but it's worth its weight in gold. Holganix, based in Glen Mills, Delaware County, has developed a sustainable and organic turf nutrient system derived from compost tea with a secret living ingredient: microbes. Holganix just received $200,000 in funding from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania, following a previous $250,000 funding round in February 2011 for its environmentally safe holistic and organic lawn fertilizer.

Today, Holganix, which employs 17, celebrates its second anniversary. Founded in 2010, the company made $200,000 its first year, and projects revenues of $3 million in 2012, according to founder and CEO Barrett Ersek.
Those lush green campus lawns and rolling golf courses come at a high price to the environment, sprayed with chemical fertilizers and pesticides which then run off into local waterways.
Ersek says his environmentally benign product dramatically reduces a major source of runoff pollution by eliminating the need for conventional pesticides and herbicides. He points to a dead zone the size of New Jersey in the Gulf of Mexico, which was brought about by chemical runoff from the Mississippi River. 
The secret in the Holganix formula is life. The lawn care spray actually contains beneficial microorganisms made without animal or human by-products. Right now, the liquid product requires refrigeration prior to application, and Ersek says his team is also working on a granulated formula, which will capture the other 50% of the lawn care market.
Ersek says the first round of Ben Franklin funding went to a validation study conducted at three universities. North Carolina State, Penn State and Purdue University all reported dramatic reduction, up to 88%, in the need to add nitrogen as a fertilizer following Holganix treatment. The Holganix formula also attacks weeds, drastically reducing the need for pesticides.
Ersek reports that his primary customer base is in the mid-Atlantic, with a rapidly growing clientele among the Amish and Mennonite communities, who appreciate the all natural formula. Holganix is also making its way south, now negotiating with companies in Florida. Holganix is primarily a B2B distributor, but also deals directly with large institutions.

The potential market for an organic lawn care product is huge. According to Ersek, there are 44 million acres of manicured turf in the US, and over a million acres of golf courses. The Holganix formula may also be applied to shrubs and crops.
The idea for the business literally rose from the ashes. Ersek, who had built and sold two lawn care companies, had stockpiled fertilizer in 2008, anticipating a 60% price spike. The warehouse went up in flames. "One of our core values is gratitude," says Ersek. "Look for greater potential in every situation. You can't control what happens to you. If you respond with gratitude, you'll be OK. The loss forced me to find a better alternative."

Source: Barrett Ersek, Holganix
Writer: Sue Spolan

FLYING BYTES: SEPTA's TransitView, MAC founder raises $75M, and Phila. Printworks strikes chord

Flying Bytes is a recurring roundup of innovation and quick updates on the people and companies we're covering:

SEPTA launches TransitView

Back in January, we reported that SEPTA was weeks away from launching a real-time, system wide tracking program. The future is finally here. Like SEPTA's TrainView for regional rail, the new TransitView provides live updates on the whereabouts of buses and trolleys throughout the city. Also launched: SMS Transit Schedule Information, allowing customers to receive a text with the next four scheduled trips, and Schedules to Go, a mobile website function that provides information on the next ten scheduled trips.

Shah closes $72 million IPO with Universal Business Payment Solutions

Following a hot tip, we learned that Bipin Shah, creator of the MAC, was seeking $72 million for payments startup Universal Business Payment Solutions. On May 13, UPBS (NASDAQ: UBPSU) got its money. According to Shah's partner Peter Davidson, "we closed on 12 million shares at $6.00 per share. The underwriters have a 45 day option to cover any over-allotments, which they have not exercised to date." Investors include hedge fund magnate J. Kyle Bass, who purchased about 800,000 shares.

Philadelphia Printworks up, running, finding its market

The lovely ladies at the helm of Philadelphia Printworks are going full speed with their new T-shirt business. Co-founder April Pugh reports that most of PPW's customer base has come from custom work, particularly from local indie rock artists. PPW loves its rockers right back and offers a band discount. Pugh says she and partner Ruth Paloma Rivera-Perez are now seeking partnerships with retail outlets and will be selling at upcoming summer festivals.

Specticast expands with EuroArts partnership
Digital entertainment distribution company Specticast continues to widen its reach. The company, which we originally profiled back in April, announced an exclusive partnership with EuroArts, bringing live and pre-recorded events from Berlin's Philharmonie, The Sheldonian Theater at Oxford University, and Madrid's Teatro Real, according to Mark Rupp, SpectiCast president.

Source: Andrew Busch, SEPTA; Peter Davidson, UBPS; April Pugh, PPW; Mark Rupp, Specticast
Writer: Sue Spolan

Interactive mapping platform launched to connect Philadelphians to their local communities

It's one of life's great mysteries: you can travel to a thousand cities and eat at a hundred fancy restaurants and drink a dozen craft beers at each of the bars along the way. But a meal never tastes as good as one at your favorite neighborhood haunt. And according to Philadelphia's sustainability leaders, this phenomenon is not just good for your appetite, it can be good for your neighborhood and your city as well.

Based on a concept created by the William Penn Foundation, partners from the Sustainable Business Network, Azavea and NPower created Common Space, a new mapping platform that creates a network of neighborhood establishments within a certain walkable, bikeable or busable distance to help residents support local business.

"The really cool thing is, I can map my friend's common space as well as my own," says SBN Executive Director Leanne Krueger-Braneky. "So if I am leaving from my office in Center City and meeting my husband who is coming from our house in West Philadelphia, he could say he is going to bike for 15 minutes and I could say I was going to walk for 20 minutes and Common Space will map the area where we would be able to meet up and map local culture events and businesses in that field."

Partnering with tastemakers like UWISHUNU and Yelp, Common Space shows you the best spots in your transit area, allowing you the most sustainable way possible to hit your next favorite haunt. After their trial run, organizers hope to partner with citywide festivals and cultural events like LiveArts and Philly Beer Week.

"Sustainability was one of the values William Penn outlined, which is why they wanted to partner with us," Krueger-Braneky says. "Because the application does encourage walking, biking, and public transit, it's a way of showing what's going on in the city while encouraging alternative transit."

Source: Leanne Krueger-Braneky, SBN
Writer: John Steele

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