Troubled “Tesla of fertilizer” disappears, fails to open huge plant in Clewiston

The erstwhile “Tesla of fertilizer” is no more. BioNitrogen Holdings, a company once headquartered in West Palm Beach and once headed by a Palm Beach entrepreneur, failed to emerge from bankruptcy.

The company filed for Chapter 11 in late 2015, and a monthslong marketing process yielded just one interested buyer of its assets, according to court documents.

Back in early 2015, entrepreneur Bryan Kornegay touted big plans for turning tree trimmings into fertilizer. He aimed to build a $300 million plant in job-starved Clewiston, and another $300 million factory in Taylor County in North Florida.

Kornegay, a former private equity executive who lives in Palm Beach, pitched his process as a pollution-free way to transform landscaping waste into feed for sugar fields, citrus groves and golf courses.

“We’re the Tesla of fertilizer,” Kornegay said in an interview, referring to the maker of electric cars.

(Note to investors, lenders and economic developers: Beware of snazzy start-ups that sum up their business models by name-dropping another hot company. DayJet, the Boca Raton company that met the same fate as BioNitrogen, once called itself “Tivo for travel.”)

Despite the tall talk, Kornegay’s company had no revenue, and it faced a lawsuit from a Canadian company that said BioNitrogen failed to repay an $845,000 loan with a hefty interest rate of 30 percent.

BioNitrogen later moved to Miami, and Kornegay left the company.



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