The founders of Greenswell are Charles “Chuck” Metzgar, a former managing director for the human resources consulting firm Mercer; Doug Pick, the president and CEO of Feed More, the hunger relief agency that operates Virginia’s largest food bank; and John May, a retired technology industry professional and president and CEO of the Center for Innovation and Development in Kilmarnock.
“The very simple, 40,000-foot story, is that Doug Pick needed more produce at Feed More,” said Metzgar, a longtime friend of Pick’s who wanted to help Feed More obtain those resources. “We were going to go to farmers in the state of Virginia — field growers — to find the product,” Metzgar said. “We looked for almost a year’s period of time.’”
However, they were unable to find enough produce to supply Feed More’s needs. “We looked at each other and said, ‘What do we do now?’” Metzgar said, “Then we saw a couple of hydroponic facilities and the lightbulbs went on.”
May, a retiree whose career included starting a telecommunications infrastructure company in Northern Virginia, came on board with Greenswell Growers after hearing Metzgar make a presentation in the Northern Neck about hydroponic farming. “I’m really the geek of the outfit,” May said. “I thought it made a whole lot of sense,” May said of the hydroponic farming idea. “I looked at the numbers, and put together a financial model, and got some investments.”
After pulling together a small group of investors, Greenswell Growers recently opened a $17 million indoor farming operation that not only will supply local food banks, but is also pursuing a budding business model of supplying grocery stores with fresh greens.
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