Summer 2018

Homespun from Haiti

A bundle of vetiver
Courtesy of Jesse Abelson

“Vetiver, a perennial grass, has roots that go down 20 to 30 feet. When farmers plant it alongside their crops, it can reduce soil erosion. The plant’s shoots are a waste product. I worked in Haiti as an EMT and saw children die of poverty and malnutrition. I wanted to address the problem, so I took a Grand Challenges class with a friend. We started thinking about what to do with vetiver shoots that would be profitable for farmers. We’re working on a machine-spun prototype of vetiver yarn. If our yarn becomes a mainstream product, we can expand beyond Haiti to other impoverished countries where vetiver grows.”

—Jesse Abelson, ’17 B.S., co-founder and CEO of Vetiver Solutions. He says the Bentson Family Scholarship and other support allowed him to take the course that led to this discovery. He’s ramping up the venture before starting medical school at the U in 2019.