2014 Seminar Shows Off Some Big Ideas From Regional Companies
Seminar shows off some big ideas from regional companies
PULLMAN – A covered, mothballed water reservoir in Colfax might be turned into a fish and vegetable farm using some of the most advanced science in aquaponic farming. A high-tech brace could replace the taping of ankles as a way to stabilize joints after sprains. Camelina oil raised on the Palouse could be turned into liquid soap. Those are some of the concepts that were refined during the Palouse Knowledge Corridor”s first “Be the Entrepreneur Bootcamp™,” a five-day round of courses taught by nearly 40 industry experts. The camp wrapped up Wednesday with a number of the 13 companies who participated presenting their ideas at the Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories Event Center in Pullman. Each business owner explained how their ideas could improve the lives of people in the region, and elsewhere.
Jeanelle Miller of Palouse Aquafarms in Colfax wants to raise fish like Tilapia in a reservoir near the Colfax Rosauers and grow vegetables like lettuce, tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers on the same property. The organic method would happen in a closed environment – greenhouses and tanks – resulting in food that Miller said has more nutrition than much of what is sold in grocery stores. “If you want melon in the winter, that can happen,” she said. “There’s no seasonality.” In addition to the farm, she wants to open a center in downtown Colfax to educate people about aquaponics. Together, the operations would employ four people in their early stages. So far, aside from some small-scale demonstrations and crops she raises for her family, most of what she wants to do is still on paper. Miller said the project could turn into a reality sometime next year at the earliest. One of the biggest hurdles could be obtaining $500,000 in capital. “We”re in the beginning stages of getting all the paperwork done,” Miller said. “We”re waiting on investments and loans.”
Ed Robertson of Badger Braces is a little further along in his proposal. His device provides the stability and support that’s needed to prevent ankle sprains or help sprains heal, said Robertson, a physical therapist at Pullman Regional Hospital. “I see these all day long,” he said. “It”s such a common problem.” He didn’t have any prototypes available for the audience Wednesday since they were at Idaho Sewing for Sports in the Grangeville area and another factory in Spokane where they will be manufactured. As frequent as the ankle injury is, it hasn’t gotten much attention from health care providers, he said, who generally tape ankles and feet the same way they’ve been doing it for more than 100 years. “This brace will raise the standard of care,” said Robertson, a former Lewis-Clark State College basketball player who tested the product on himself.
While Miller and Robertson are just launching their businesses, Kate Jaeckel of Orchard Farm Soap in the Moscow area is looking to expand hers. Bar soap has been a staple of her business for more than five years, but she wants to cultivate a broader market for Camelina oil grown on the Palouse by making liquid soap. “We’re taking the oil production out of the global market and localizing it,” she said, “which is a really unusual thing.” Growing the business will require more room and new equipment since the method is different. If she can overcome that obstacle, Jaeckel said she’s confident she’ll find a market. “The great thing about soap is it really does sell itself because it”s something you use every day,” she said.