Jackie Heinricher ’86
Jackie Heinricher ’86 is leading a biological revolution.
She runs Booshoot Gardens in Mount Vernon, Wash., a multimillion-dollar biotechnology company she started in her Anacortes barn. The firm employs 78 scientists and horticulturalists; produces more than 10 million bamboo plants a year; and launched “Plant-a-Boo,” a campaign to curb climate change.
Booshoot partners with clients such as Home Depot, Costco and, most recently Kimberly-Clark, the world’s largest tissue manufacturer, which the company is helping to develop a mass-market toilet paper containing more sustainable bamboo fiber.
Before Heinricher and senior scientist Randy Burr discovered how to propagate bamboo through tissue culture, the plant was difficult to cultivate on a large scale. Most strains flower and produce seed once every 60 to 120 years. In 2007, Booshoot developed a breakthrough technology that enables the unprecedented production of millions of plants. This technology makes it possible for markets worldwide to meet the growing demand for bamboo for use in wood products, pulp for paper and textiles, soil stabilization and reforestation, and to take advantage of bamboo’s untapped potential for carbon sequestration.
“We’ve found a way to produce this natural resource,” says Heinricher. “Now my job is to help corporations and landowners come together to make it work commercially. This is a homegrown technology that can make a difference in this country.”
As the worldwide leader in the field, Booshoot is attracting interest from Asia and Europe, as well as here in the U.S., the world’s largest importer of bamboo products.
Heinricher came to Evergreen because she knew it was progressive and committed to the environment. She later earned her master’s degree in fisheries science at Tennessee Tech, surprising her advisors by immediately crossing department lines. “I felt like I was head and shoulders above lots of students in my level of preparation [for grad school],” she says. “What I’m doing today is very much in line with all things Evergreen.”
Ironically, Heinricher hadn’t planned to go into science. Because of her success in the field, she encourages students who may not think they’re good at science or math to give it a try. “You can have a big impact without a calculator,” she says. “Science mostly requires a keen sense of observation and curiosity.”