A local startup company is making progress toward improving the lives of every Floyd County resident with development of new technology.

Utilizing USDA and economic development grants, Nanostart, founded in 2016, is a technology-driven research and development company devoted to projects to solve the world’s most pressing problems, according to Khrys Varney, Nanostart CEO.

“This all came about in 2014, what I call my catastrophic year,” said Varney. “I lost my job, my health, my marriage and my home. I came to church to ask God for guidance, and he said to start a business.”

Varney said that she was inspired to do something about what the downturn in the economy was doing her neighbors.

“So many people were losing their jobs, losing their homes to the bank and moving away from the area to find work,” she said. “Our focus is to first help the people of Eastern Kentucky, to help our community, grow into something we’ve only hoped we could see. We want to bless our people, bless this area and make things better.”

While founded in faith, Nanostart has its foundations in science. “One of our first projects, a water filtration system, has a prototype currently in testing with a company in Florida,” said Varney. “The biggest difference in what we are doing is to make the current technology smaller and more cost-efficient.”

She mentioned other projects in development such as pig manure remediation, an more energy-efficient cooling system and the Phoenix 21.

The Phoenix 21, according to Lori Peterson, project manager, will have the ability to feed in waste from landfills, construction, disaster recovery and more, into a hopper and through a process called gasification which she says will produce energy. 

Gasification is a process that converts organic- or fossil fuel-based carbonaceous materials into carbon monoxide, hydrogen and carbon dioxide. This is achieved by reacting the material at high temperatures, without combustion, with a controlled amount of oxygen and/or steam. 

“The amount of energy produced will allow it to, essentially, power itself,” said Peterson. “This is a multi-use project that will also produce bio-char as a byproduct. Bio-char is great for crops and works like a fertilizer helping plants grow bigger and produce more.”

She said that the Phoenix 21 would be useful for disaster recovery as well.

“The Phoenix 21, is a step forward in waste-to-energy technology. Our inventors have been working in the fields of gasification, engineering and waste management for over 20 years to come up with a smaller, more energy efficient model that can be transported to wherever it needs to go,” Peterson said. “In a disaster, getting power back is a top priority. The Phoenix 21 could take disaster debris, helping cleanup and in return, generate enough power to keep essentials, like a hospital, running.”

Using the Kentucky Opportunity Zone, Nanostart is seeking investors to build a prototype of the Phoenix 21.

“We have been seeking investors since the start of the year. Any option is on the table - donations, grants, investments in exchange for stock options,” said Varney. “We believe that we can get a prototype built for $30,000 within three to four months, and that is the goal we are working toward.”

Once the prototype is up and working, Varney said that production will take place in the local area.

“We want to create a factory to build the Phoenix 21 right here in Eastern Kentucky,” she said. “We are currently looking at a site near Jenkins and are working with the city to do so. When we get the prototype up and working, it will be there.”

While Nanostart is still in its infancy, the potential for growth is present.

“Nanostart is not yet a full-time business. Our employees all have other full-time jobs until the company gets up and working. We currently have 15 people working for us, but ultimately want to top out at 150 people,” said Varney. “But just like the applications for what we are building here, our future and potential is limitless.”

For more information about Nanostart and investment opportunities, visit, kyoz.org.

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