Visual Communications to Plant Nutrition: A Unique Journey
Rich Johnston, the founder of Performance Enhanced Delivery (PED), brings a unique blend of creativity, business acumen, curiosity, and a deep passion for agriculture to the table. Literally, the NEXT Accelerator Cohort table.
Hailing from Pennsylvania, Rich initially pursued graphic design at Pittsburgh Tech starting his career in the world of marketing before the internet era, honing both traditional and modern strategies. His journey took an unexpected turn when he found himself working for a rink facility management company in Michigan doing branding and marketing. Fun fact: Rich got to drive the Zamboni. This diverse background in graphics, marketing, and facility management set the stage for Rich’s eventual foray into agriculture.
From Penn State to Mango Farms: Nurturing a Passion for Agriculture
Back in Pennsylvania, Rich established his own branding agency. One of his potential clients was Penn State, a land grant university with a strong focus on agricultural programs. The university counter-offered; offering Rich a job instead of an account. This led to a unique position in outreach marketing and communications at Penn State where Rich worked in a visual communications role supporting online education, continuing education and cooperative extension initiatives that offer children programs like 4H, sports camps, continuing education, etc. This is when Rich’s advertising and agriculture experience converged.
From Florida to South Carolina: Growth Scripts and Growth in Knowledge
Relocating to South Florida, Rich lived on a mango farm while running his own agency. He began collaborating with a micronutrient company, managing their brand. His mentor guided him through the intricacies of plant nutrition, and Rich became intimately educated in the challenges faced by the agriculture industry, such as citrus greening, a disease impacting citrus trees. Through working with large manufacturing products, Rich started to think about how homeowners should not have to buy massive amounts of plant nutrition (bulk-size) to care for their own plants. Rich, always a tinkerer and an inventor, started turning that problem over in his head. Rich, is not just an idea guy. He’s an inventor, very product-focused in his solutions. He likes to have something tangible at the end of the day.
Introducing GrowScripts. With a focus on citrus care, he partnered with manufacturers to provide plant nutrition to homeowners, in personal size care kits, aiming to simplify plant care for individuals. He repackaged the products into smaller portions… And this paved the way for Rich’s exploration of his own formulas and products.
Performance Enhanced Delivery: Bridging the Gap in Plant Nutrition
Rich did not want to depend solely on manufacturers for his products. Also, Rich is the guy that nothing is ever good enough so he goes into his workshop to experiment on how to make things better. Performance Enhanced Delivery (PED) was born out of these needs, to improve the quality of his product and to diversify his product base. Eight years of persistent experimentation with coating technology resulted in a patent-pending product that enhances plant nutrition. The innovative bio-based coating allows for a delayed, slow-release of nutrients (specifically fertilizers), reducing the time spent in the field, labor costs, and environmental impact by reducing micro-plastics.
While Rich was working on his time-release coating, his family made the move to Greenville, SC. We love the story of how Rich and his wife divided their research. He took on the best place to build a business and his wife focused on the best places to raise a family. It came down to Greenville or Raleigh, and ultimately Rich could see the budding entrepreneurial community in the Upstate. You can say he wanted to add some fertilizer to our ecosystem. 😉 They made their decision and moved to Greer in just 2 weeks! We’re so glad they did.
Rich’s “what if” attitude and dedication to understanding each plant’s unique needs have led to his breakthroughs in plant nutrition. PED’s focus on bridging the gap between conventional and regenerative/organic practices™ reflects Rich’s commitment to sustainable agriculture.
Next Steps and Mentorship: A Community Approach
As Rich navigates the evolving landscape of agriculture and product development, he acknowledges the importance of mentorship and community support. The NEXT Venture Mentoring Service (VMS) program has played a crucial role in connecting him with mentors and a supportive network.
Rich’s journey has been shaped by his curiosity, obsession with improvement, and the desire to create something new. As he envisions a future that combines PED with GrowScripts products, collaboration with fellow founders, and ongoing participation in the NEXT ecosystem, Rich remains committed to pushing the boundaries of agricultural innovation.
In the face of challenges and the occasional bout of imposter syndrome (don’t we all?!), Rich stands as a testament to the resilience and creativity required to make a mark in the agricultural landscape. His story exemplifies the power of community, mentorship, and a relentless pursuit of knowledge in driving innovation and success in the business world. No matter what industry we are in…