Research Pays as Grower Turns to Fertilizer Maker

BGI-USA was recently featured in the News-Press of Fort Myers in a story behind the business and what makes the GAIN family of products so unique. Read more below or visit their website to view full article: BGI USA in the News-Press

Written by Don Ruane, Special to the News-Press

Tom Scannell is a patient yet persistent businessman and scientist.

Armed with a soil science degree and 20 years of experience farming row crops in the Mississippi delta, he worked six years to come up with a plant food formula to make bougainvillea blossoms pop with color and hardiness.

But after that he realized there is a better way to get fast results — and he turned to the nation’s land grant universities and growers he’d met over the years. He’s used their years of research and experimentation to make the jump from one of the biggest bougainvillea growers in the country to a budding supplier of specialized plant foods providing a full range of nutrients.

The product line is known as GAIN fertilizers. He sells wholesale only; homeowners can get the products from Home Depot, garden centers, landscapers and other professionals. The species specific plant foods are marketed under names such as BOUGAIN, TOMATOGAIN, PALMGAIN and HIBISGAIN.

A new supplement to the foods called SUPERGAIN is just now hitting the market. All of the products are bagged and shipped from BGI Inc.’s warehouse south of Viscaya Parkway in Cape Coral’s industrial park.

Your Farm and Garden, a 3.5 acre nursery in Sarasota, uses the products on its plants and sells them to its customers, said manager James Vowels.

“It’s one or our highly recommended synthetic fertilizers. It’s specifically formulated for certain plants,” Vowels said. That makes the GAIN products perfect for each plant and a popular item for his customers, he said.

Scannell began his climb to business ownership in his youth when his mother introduced him to the symmetry and beauty of gardens. Something clicked in him.

“I knew what I wanted to do when I was 15,” said Scannell, who easily summons quotes about beauty and plants.

“My greatest masterpiece is my garden,” said Scannell, quoting the celebrated French impressionist artist Claude Monet from the 19th century.

Daniel Berrigan, a priest, Vietnam War protestor and peace activist who served time in prison for destroying draft records, wrote “Tulips in the Prison Yard,” Scannell said. “He found beauty in a cold hard place,” Scannell said.

There is a divine presence in plants, according to Scannell, and his business is about bringing out their beauty in every way from packaging to blooms. It helps people find beauty in their lives, he said.

With a sense of the divine in his heart and his college degree in his pocket, Scannell began a 15-year run of farming in the Mississippi delta. Then he moved to Delray Beach and began looking for opportunities in the plant world.

“I searched around and discovered bougainvillea. So I went into that,” Scannell said. That was in 1994 when he launched Bougainvillea Growers International. Over the next 20 years he developed more than 30 types of bougainvillea and became one of the nation’s leading bougainvillea dealers. He moved the business to Lee County in 2012 and started a row crop farm near St. James City.

“From there I pivoted into the plant food business,” Scannell said. He noticed in big box garden centers that gardeners were not getting the same plant food products professionals use.

“The homeowners were just getting the generic item without the balanced nutrients,” Scannell said. He asked himself, “Why aren’t homeowners using what the professionals use?”

He set about developing products that would help homeowners.

“I don’t invent. I just go to the best places I can think of,” Scannell said. He approached the land grant universities with agriculture programs and tapped into research that spanned years. He consulted with friends in the world of agriculture. He came up with nutrient-rich products blended for specific species as well as general applications.

“These are university researched and more importantly grower researched,” Scannell said.