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Originally published February 25, 2013 at 6:17 PM | Page modified February 26, 2013 at 1:40 PM

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McCaw’s Pendrell invests in bamboo innovator Booshoot

The Skagit Valley agricultural technology firm has sold a majority stake to what might seem like an unlikely partner — Pendrell, a patent-owning company controlled by telecom pioneer Craig McCaw.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Nine years after Jackie Heinricher discovered how to clone bamboo in a test tube, her company Booshoot might have the backing it needs to become a major part of the forestry market.

The Skagit Valley agricultural-technology firm said Monday it has sold a majority stake to what might seem like an unlikely partner — Pendrell, a patent-owning company controlled by telecom pioneer Craig McCaw. Booshoot will operate as a new Pendrell subsidiary named Provitro.

Kirkland-based Pendrell invests in intellectual property and focuses on unique innovation, said CEO Ben Wolff.

“[Booshoot] fits our business model and objectives perfectly. They are going to fundamentally change agriculture and forestry,” said Wolff.

Pendrell is the outgrowth of McCaw’s former satellite-telecom company ICO Global Communications, which changed its name after acquiring the IP services company Ovidian in July 2011. It later also acquired the digital-rights management company ContentGuard.

Pendrell has acquired
68 percent of Booshoot for an undisclosed price.

Mt. Vernon-based Booshoot produces about
3 million bamboo plants annually using an advanced tissue-culture system that replicates bamboo on a mass scale without genetic modification.

Clients include Costco and Home Depot, which sell its ornamental bamboo under the brand “Bamboo that Behaves.”

Most recently, Booshoot landed a deal with Kimberly-Clark, the world’s largest tissue manufacturer, to develop a toilet paper using 20 percent bamboo fiber.

Pendrell plans to develop more partnerships with companies that need bamboo for paper products and textiles, said Wolff.

Booshoot says the technology Heinricher discovered has made timber bamboo a sustainable alternative for creating pulp, something many companies in the paper industry have been searching for.

“One of our objectives is to take advantage of companies that are looking for a different source of raw materials in the textile business,” said Wolff.

Timber bamboo grows at a staggering rate (70 to 100 feet in 45 days), but it only produces seeds every 60 to 120 years.

But Heinricher says Booshoot multiplies bamboo in days and could produce tens of millions of bamboo plants.

Booshoot has 24 acres for its products in Mount Vernon and recently opened a bamboo plantation in the Southeast to produce plants for Kimberly-Clark.

The plantation is the first of its kind, according to Heinricher.

“You can’t find other commercial farms or plantations for bamboo because no one else has been able to propagate the plant,” said Heinricher.

Pendrell is interested in applying Booshoot’s technology to other organic material besides bamboo.

“We’re thinking there are a variety of different crops that could benefit from this technology,” said Wolff.

The company grows wasabi and cabbage, and Heinricher said the team recently began experimenting with potatoes, with initial success.

Wolff said Booshoot plans to increase plant production when they enter into contracts with more companies.

“We’ve got the ability to produce millions of bamboo plants while also applying this technology to other plants,” Wolff said. “The ramp up is just beginning.”

Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.

Sarah Elson: 206-464-2718 or selson@seattletimes.com

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