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Teen entrepreneur starts ag tech company

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WAKE FOREST — Folux Solutions, a Raleigh-based agricultural tech company founded by local entrepreneur Daniel Webb, hopes to provide a cheaper alternative to mainstream LED growing lights while rapidly expanding into the wider global market.

Webb, 18, is a recent graduate of Franklin Academy. He was inspired to take up gardening after his therapist recommended it as a method of dealing with a bout of depression.

“Having something to work toward every day gives you a kind of fulfillment — to have a plant grow as you grow yourself,” Webb said.

This philosophy also forms the basis of Webb’s approach toward Folux, which he sees as both a chance to make a profit as well as motivate himself.

“The whole reason that I started the business is the reason I started the garden — I’m passionate about it and it’s something that gets me up every day and keeps me going.”

Folux, co-founded by Webb and his business partner Steve Vailakakis, currently offers two baseline products: the Helios Solo and Helios Duo, which are horticultural indoor lighting boards that consist of 288 and 576 Samsung LED diodes respectively.

“This sort of product isn’t for most consumers — the reason why is that you have to have a lot of DIY drive to put an urban garden in your house,” Webb said. “It’s not the sort of product that your grandma should buy if she wants to garden indoors because it’s made and built for commercial and consumer use. We’re working toward more consumer-oriented products in the future, it’s just the current market … is very much hands-on and technical.”

Even though Folux operates in a niche market, Webb has high hopes for expansion into the wider global marketplace, claiming that Folux products are sold in 10 different international markets ranging from China and Japan to the U.S. and Canada.

Webb sees further opportunity in the growing Canadian cannabis industry, as well as potential expansion into the Colorado market for indoor grow lights. Closer to home, Webb hopes to make connections with the wider Research Triangle community. He says he currently enjoys a partnership with Pompieri Pizza in Durham.

As with any startup business, there have been some rough patches along the way in getting Folux off the ground. After he was let down by a contractor, Webb turned his mother’s townhouse into a warehouse and set about assembling, testing, and shipping the first run of panels by hand. Another instance saw a Chinese factory contracted to manufacture the original run of Helios components ship him faulty parts and the light was produced in the wrong wavelengths.

Despite the setbacks, however, the founders of Folux Solutions still believe in their businesses’ potential to expand. Webb hopes to open a warehouse in the Raleigh area within the next few years, as well as going public after filing in the state of Louisiana.