Ag-Defense Systems Wins 2010 “Launch” Competition

by Ken Klotz, Director-Programs,
Turner Center for Entrepreneurship

Fall 2010


The top three in each preliminary competition earned the right to present their business idea to a panel of judges.  Prospective entrepreneurs submitted business ideas to enter the competition.  From the dozens of entries submitted, the following six were selected as finalists: Lopears Poochie Playground; Granny Goodwitch Bakery; Keepworthy Concepts; Ag Defense Systems; Guardian Healthcare Advocates; and Nodle Products.  These finalists made twenty-minute presentations to a panel of judges at the Peoria NEXT Innovation Center.  

While always difficult to select only one from several exciting new business ideas, the judges selected Ag-Defense Systems as the winner of the 2010 Launch competition.  The runner-up was Nodle Products, who received a prize of $500.  Ag-Defense has invented a device, the BioSage, capable of rapidly detecting the presence of bacteria in food products.  Founder and Chief Technology Officer, Rex Dyer , said that because of the speed at which the BioSage can detect E. coli, salmonella, and listeria, “We have an opportunity to change the way food safety and food recalls are handled”.

Currently, food processors test for contamination by sending samples to an independent lab.  Because test results can take up to 7 days, many food processors will package and sell the products before knowing if it is contaminated.  If contamination is discovered, a food recall is issued, but only after potentially life threatening illness.  The BioSage can be placed on-site at the food processor, eliminating the need for independent lab testing.  Results of a BioSage test are available within two hours.  “The BioSage will allow food processors to cull out contaminated food before it reaches food distribution channels.  We could progress from a system focused on food recalls to a system based on early elimination of contaminated foods”, said Dyer.  Since 2008, Ag-Defense Systems has occupied a lab at the Peoria NEXT Innovation Center to finalize work on their prototype.

The timing is perfect for a solution to the food contamination crisis, with Ag-Defense Systems poised to become a rapid success.  Their long range intent is to build a vibrant research and development company centered on their core sample testing technology.  “We see applications of our testing technology in the fields of chemicals, environmental, and medical testing”, said Dyer.  Within two years, they envision more than a dozen researchers employed by the company in Peoria.

Ag-Defense Systems received an attractive prize package including: a) $5,000 award; b) free consulting services on topics including: financial management; insurance; legal; human resources; office design and accounting; c) 1 year free membership in the Chambers of Commerce in Peoria, East Peoria, Morton and Pekin; d) basic website; e) business cards & letterhead; f) professional photography; g) golf passes; h) free attendance at all seminars offered by Bradley’s Turner Center for Entrepreneurship for one year.
The following generous sponsors made this competition possible:  Coyle Insurance; Prospect Enterprises; State Bank of Speer; Husch Blackwell & Sanders; Total Income Tax; Performance Growth Partners; OIC Group; MultiAd; Lincoln Office; V Gallery; Weaver Ridge Golf Course.  Building on the excitement generated this year, it is anticipated that Launch will continue with a competition in the fall of 2011 that will generate even more participants and larger prize packages.

The Launch competition truly was a collaborative effort of the Turner Center; Chambers of Commerce in Peoria, East Peoria, and Pekin; Morton EDC; SCORE; Bradley’s Technology Commercialization Center, and Let It Shine in Pekin.  The goal of Launch was to spur new venture development.  Based on the quality of the ideas and presentations made at this year’s Finals, the Tri-County area will soon have six new businesses in the fold.