High-tech puts scientist on cutting edge of Top 40
Publish or perish is a term often tossed around in research facilities when it comes to success and survival, but it was not the path Geoff White was prepared to take.
So, after leaving his job at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre in Summerland several years ago, he decided to go the route of any self-respecting scientist: commercial.
It was a decision he hasn’t regretted.
Now, working out of his 2,500-square-foot laboratory in Penticton, the 37-year-old father of two, who is the founder and CEO of ProgenyBio, has just started his second agricultural services business.
“Branching out from the research side of the world was an independent direction, being my own boss, having my own lab, things you strive for as well in research but it was a different path for me.,” said White, who admitted he was just as surprised as anyone to learn he had latent retail tendencies.
“I figured in the end that going private was a faster means to an end because if I stayed in the academic side and continued down that path I would not likely have my own lab for another 10 or 15 years.
“It’s an exciting time. It’s sort of one of those dream and reality things that you keep pinching yourself and then waking up and realizing that it hasn’t been a dream.”
Rather than just having the results of his research work published in journals and sit on shelves, White wanted to see his efforts put to practical use.
“We’re bridging the high-tech world into agriculture. There is actually a huge gap between research and practical use in production systems,” said White.
“With this route I saw an opportunity with agriculture service needs in the valley and especially in the wine industry — the viticulture world — as well as the orchard industry. There is a lot of information that I could put in the hands of the producers that could help them with their bottom line and sustainability.
For White, the transition from the public to the private commercial sector involved a very steep learning curve.
He said his success in learning to make pitches for funding to the business community was due largely to the Jump:Start:Challenge program run by Accelerate Okanagan.
As a top five finisher with his idea for ProgenyBio, he qualified for some serious tutelage from powerful and knowledgeable mentors.
“The eight weeks of training we had really helped us tune what our pitch and delivery is,” said White.
“Through their guidance and feedback I actually found out I have pretty solid business instincts so I’m learning to trust those a little bit more.
“It was quite a leap to take and it was quite scary and it’s still scary.
“It’s a risk-reward scenario and you have to be a bit of risk taker to take on a venture like this.”
As exciting as starting ProgenyBio was, his latest business, CanGenX BioTech, which will provide research and development services to the new medical marijuana industry in Canada really has him stoked.
With the increase in the production of medical marijuana and the possibility of recreational use down the road, White envisions enormous potential for the new firm.
“I see this as an exciting opportunity to mould the landscape of the medical marijuana industry,” he said. “CanGenX is working with licensed producers under the new regulations set forth by Health Canada to develop various technologies to advance their production systems and competitive edge.”
Although he was raised in small town Nova Scotia, Penticton is now White’s home along with his young family and if starting his own business was a way to remain here, it was a challenge he was happy to take on.
“The responsibility as a father and parent is a very important thing in my life and taking this step is also about laying down a legacy for my children,” said White.
Penticton Top 40 under 40 is presented by the Prospera Credit Union and White Kennedy LLP Chartered Accountants in partnership with the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce, JCI Penticton with support from Community Futures Okanagan Similkameen.