CANNAINVESTOR Magazine October / November 2016 - Page 136

Upon graduation from UNH in 1994, after a summer road trip to celebrate, Brian made a friendly bet with a roommate, which stated that whoever found the first job in a major city, the other would have to move there as well, and find a job once there to share the living expenses. The job that Brian landed in Washington DC, commuting daily from Baltimore, lasted him fifteen years. He had discovered a young, upcoming company, who was designing innovative product solutions to address workplace ergonomics for corporations and Federal Government employees, to ease and prevent the fast- growing number of musculoskeletal disorders and inefficiencies being caused by a surge in desktop computer use. By his second year, Brian was awarded multiple recognitions, including a “National Sales Champion” title. Relocating back to New England in 1996 to help open the New England market, Brian maintained a top 15-20% sales average over his fifteen year tenure, living and working in Maine. His long-time employer, Manhattan-based Humanscale Corporation, methodically grew their sales numbers from under $10M when Brian started with them in 1994, to an estimated $400M per year today.

Brian thought he was retiring his career in Ergonomics sales and consulting in 2010, when in reality it was only about to begin again; except this time with him at the helm. He found himself staying home to assist his mom with her memory challenges caused by Alzheimer’s, and he needed to find a flexible working arrangement. His growing interest in the Cannabis industry led him to invest in a high-end “grow room” as a licensed cannabis caregiver under the newly-passed Maine state laws. As he performed the various jobs involved in the planting, managing, harvesting and processing of cannabis, he couldn’t help but view these jobs through his trained eye in ergonomics; as being quite inefficient, and prone to risk of injury, musculoskeletal pain and discomfort. He searched the internet to find out what others were doing to address ergonomics in the cannabis and horticultural industry, he was shocked to see a complete void of solutions. He then began to invent and develop innovative solutions to his own ergonomic concerns, and thus Ergrow was born in 2014.

Using his vast prior experience as a guide, along with his father’s design DNA, Brian has invented over thirty product and efficiency system designs to date, with the goal of making each one solve a particular ergonomic problem, and which are to be expected worthy of patent protection. In January of 2016, he entered his young startup company, Ergrow Systems LLC, into a global contest to find the best startups in the Cannabis industry, sponsored by Gateway Accelerator in Oakland, CA. Although Ergrow was too early stage to be chosen as a top ten for Gateway’s first Cohort this past Spring, Brian ranked as an impressive top 15% finalist of nearly 200 startups from nine countries, and was told he scored “near the top” on the contest application’s lengthy Aptitude exam. He was encouraged by Gateway to join them as part of their co-working community, Gateway Works, where Brian spent much of April 2016. Upon insights gleaned and connections made, Brian returned to Maine to continue bootstrapping his young company, which recently launched in mid-September with his first product; which is an ergonomically designed harvest / trimming bag, which allows the user to perform this tedious job in a comfortably reclined, supported posture, featuring a lid that doubles as a bib to keep sticky trimmings off of one’s clothing. The COMFORT trimming bag attaches to the waist with an adjustable strap, allowing for standing use outdoors in the field, and also as a way to easily change from sitting to standing intermittently, a recommended practice in corporate computer ergonomics.

Ergonomics, which is Latin for “Work Laws” has the subject of intensive study by Universities and Fortune 500 companies, intent on preventing the devastating worker’s compensation expenses incurred by choosing to ignore the concept of prevention. In fact, Ergonomics is a study of efficiency and proper body postures that easily prevents most of the risk factors for injury, but only as a preventative measure. The alternative, reactive remedies to problematic injuries is simply known as medical intervention. So as Ritchie points out, there are two conversations to be had in a discussion on ergonomics; one of comfort, safety and efficiency for the worker, and another more in-depth sit-down with business owners who will shoulder the crippling costs of ignoring ergonomics as a preventative measure. Thanks to long, in-depth case studies, we now know that close attention to ergonomics is not a cost at all, but an investment, with an average ROI of $3 to $15 for every dollar spent toward prevention. Injury prevention aside, there are many huge ancillary benefits such as employee morale and job satisfaction, reduced absenteeism, increased retention, and a more positive general impression of the company they are working for. The combined result of such forward-thinking, when properly applied, has given companies like Maine legend LL BEAN, an amazing history of employee loyalty and well-being, not to mention soaring revenues.

Currently Ergrow Systems is scheduled to pitch in November to the ArcView Group’s network of cannabis investors, an invitation that by virtue places Ergrow within the top ten percent of all applications for funding that are being reviewed by the ArcView Group from around the world; which averages forty applications per week. Although Ergrow’s solutions have a global appeal beyond cannabis production, this fast-growing industry is the current focus of the company. In anticipation of Venture Capital funding, Brian has gone heavy on Intellectual Property filings to protect his quietly-designed line of innovative product solutions, and is soon to unveil a revolutionary, turn-key Vertical Horticulture efficiency system, whereby all of the major efficiencies involved in indoor horticulture production are addressed, in order of cost: Real Estate footprint, Employees, Power, Water, HVAC, Financing, etc. Brian and his team have branded the system simply as “GROWTH” The modular, self-contained system proactively eliminates the guesswork of getting started in cannabis / horticulture production, with a clean burning engine for the ultimate in efficiency and ergonomics. Ergrow has gone so far as to offer the perfect, custom buildings to accompany his modular systems, which allow business owners to expand their growth at a comfortable pace. That forward-thinking approach is laced together with global partnerships for other important and innovative solutions. Ergrow Systems might just be what the world has been waiting for to advance the need for innovation in urban food production.