Wise County company makes wastewater clean

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Print this page by Joan Tupponce
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Photo courtesy Larta Institute

Karen Sorber, the founder and CEO of Micronic Technologies in Wise County, describes participating in the AG Innovation Showcase in St. Louis as “the best experience of our company’s life.”

Micronic was one of only four women-owned companies focused on renewable agricultural technology among the 19 businesses making presentations at the September event. The annual AG Innovation Showcase brings together entrepreneurs, researchers, corporations and investors involved in agriculture and agriculture technology.

“I have done so many different things over the last number of years to get traction for the company,” Sorber says. “We were thrilled to participate. There was a lot of interaction and interest.”

Micronic has developed a sustainable water desalination and purification technology. Its water treatment system, MicroDesal, is capable of taking water from any source and cleaning it to potable water standards, Sorber says.

Sixty-nine percent of water used every day in the United States is wasted, she notes. “That equates to 90 trillion gallons of wastewater suitable for reuse. What we need to do is reuse that water. In our case, we do what no other technology can do — with one pass you have clean water.”

Micronic is heavily focused on serving the agricultural market as well as targeting acid mine drainage, abandoned mine lands and community wells. The company also is working with the Office of Naval Research in designing a MicroDesal water treatment system for the U.S. Marine Corps. “Seventy to 80 percent of fresh water in the country is used by agriculture,” Sorber says.

Micronic has been awarded three patents and is pursing two additional ones. It has doubled its number of employees to 10 since moving from Loudoun County to Wise County last year.

The company has received $3 million in grant funding in the past seven years. It is developing three pilot projects that are expected to go into the field next year. One project is funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant while the other two will be funded by the state’s Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission.

Sorber says Micronic has been well received in Southwest Virginia. “University of Virginia-Wise was the first to commit to support us,” she says. “Wise County provided phenomenal financial and infrastructure support to us. The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority introduced us to the region and then approved our lease arrangements for the building.”

Sorber expects to find customers across the U.S. “Wherever there is water, there is wastewater, and wherever there is wastewater, we can clean it up,” she says.

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