Selling Chemicals to Farmers in Thailand
In 1967, Brent Brasher's Uncle Jimmy was selling chemicals to Thai farmers. He was being introduced to new sights, foods--a new culture. But most importantly as a chemical salesman, he was introduced to new crops.
Thailand and Southeast Asia are native to thousands of plant species that simply aren't found in Western countries. One of these crops was kenaf. As Jimmy learned, kenaf is a plant in the same family as cotton and okra, that was being used for things such as twine, paper, bagging, and rugs.
He returned to the States and told Brent's dad Ernest about the plant. Uncle Jimmy also passed along this picture, which we found still sitting in Ernest's desk just last week.
From Cotton to Kenaf
As Brent graduated from Mississippi State University and began farming, he started researching some alternative crops to grow. In traditional farming, we are at the mercy of the market. Corn, cotton, rice, soybeans--these are all commodities where profits are determined by the market. You can have the most beautiful soybeans the world has ever seen one year, but it's all about supply and demand as far as what people will pay you for your soybeans.
Brent wanted to be in control of his own profits. As he studied and researched different crops that would allow him to be independent from the commodities market, Ernest mentioned kenaf. In 1988, a research collaborative was started by Mississippi State University to study kenaf. Could it grow in the US? Was this even feasible? What exactly could be done with it?
Testing was continuing to be conducted at Mississippi State University to discover different properties and applications for kenaf. Meanwhile, Brent and Gabriela Brasher began growing kenaf large scale for pulp paper production. Somewhere during this time, it was also discovered that kenaf makes and excellent oil absorbent. The Brasher's created Biosorb oil absorbent and sold the first bag!
As we all know, the rise of the computer meant the fall of paper. This meant that Brent and Gabriela had to shift their intentions elsewhere when it came to what to do with kenaf. They stopped growing kenaf for purpose of pulp paper and decided to go full steam ahead with oil absorbent products. Throughout the 2000s, Kengro's product line grew introducing Biopad, Biosorb Booms, and more.
Kengro Ventures Into Erosion & Sediment Control
In 2018, Kengro partnered with MKB Company to begin producing Erosion and Sediment Control products. MKB was seeking out a material that would absorb hydrocarbons for its silt fence alternative, Siltron. Kenaf turned out to be the perfect solution, beginning a partnership between MKB and Kengro to offer a silt fence alternative that can absorb viscous job site pollutants.
Kengro continues to be owned and run by the Brasher family in Charleston, Mississippi. As Ernest Brasher has moved into a front desk administrative role, a member of the third generation, Alexandra Brasher, stepped into a role as Kengro's Marketing Coordinator and Business Development Leader.