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Youngkin visits Albemarle startup

 AgroSphere Co-founders (from left) Payam Pourtaheri and Ameer Shakeel receive a Virginia flag from Gov. Glenn Youngkin.
Randi B. Hagi
AgroSphere Co-founders (from left) Payam Pourtaheri and Ameer Shakeel receive a Virginia flag from Gov. Glenn Youngkin.

Governor Glenn Youngkin visited Albemarle County on Thursday to celebrate the expansion of a local startup. WMRA's Randi B. Hagi reports.

A tall warehouse just north of Charlottesville is the home of AgroSpheres – a business created by two UVa grads while they were still in school. The company is embarking on a $25 million expansion to increase production and demonstration space for its environmentally-friendly pesticides and other crop products.

Gov. Youngkin addressed a crowd of the business's employees, investors, and family members.

GLENN YOUNGKIN: The milestone that we are celebrating today is tremendous. … Agriculture technology is on the move. These guys are leading it, and Virginia is at the forefront. And so thank you for helping us be there.

Co-founder Ameer Shakeel explained their motivation.

AMEER SHAKEEL: Both Payam and I have some heritage from the developing world, where a lot of chemicals are used. And you know, in that part of the world, maybe you don't have gloves, you don't have the best information about how to use pesticides, so a lot of detrimental health effects of pesticides – they poison people. They poison our food supply systems, kill honeybees and butterflies.

PAYAM POURTAHERI: We envision a future built by nature's technologies here at Agrospheres.

Payam Pourtaheri is the other co-founder.

POURTAHERI: We want to produce clean, effective, and accessible solutions for farmers everywhere. Doesn't matter what kind of spraying equipment they have or what kind of facilities they have to store their products.

Their interested clients include local vineyards and farmers in southeast Asia.

Randi B. Hagi first joined the WMRA team in 2019 as a freelance reporter. Her writing and photography have been featured in The Harrisonburg Citizen, where she previously served as the assistant editor; as well as The Mennonite; Mennonite World Review; and Eastern Mennonite University's Crossroads magazine.