By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
The annual “Y-12 Innovation Competition,” hosted by The Enterprise Center (EC), is always an informative event, and this year’s iteration was no exception.
Five companies presented on Friday in Chattanooga. Their concepts ranged from high technology use of unmanned systems to protect society to a post-incubator facility to further accelerate high-growth technologies and an effort focused on an innovative approach to workforce development to close the skills gap.
When the dust settled, the top prize – $2500 plus consulting assistance – went to a company focused on using technology to address a burgeoning national problem created by feral hogs. The winner was Beyond Right Now Technologies, a start-up currently participating in the inaugural Agriculture Innovation Business Accelerator sponsored by the Northwest Tennessee Entrepreneur Center and Memphis Bioworks Foundation.
“I’m selling a sustainable solution,” Jacob Gish, the company’s Founder, told those attending the Chattanooga competition. During his presentation, Gish used a combination of humor and candor to explain one of the more novel technologies and business plans that I have seen, something he called the “Pig Punisher Platform.”
The device is a multi-purpose platform designed to enable more efficient and safer harvesting of feral hogs, a species that is rapidly growing and causing damage to farmer’s property as well as carrying diseases and parasites that infect agricultural livestock.
“We hope to develop a turnkey solution for farmers,” Gish explained. While the feral hog problem is most prevalent in California and Texas, the species is also becoming more noticeable in East Tennessee.
His idea is to provide a way for hunters to more easily locate herds of the hogs, eliminate them in a safe manner, and, where possible, harvest the meat for food purposes after testing it for any diseases.
To realize his goal, Gish said that he is exploring technology relationships with the sponsoring Y-12 National Security Complex (Y-12), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), and Vanderbilt University.
For B&W Y-12, LLC, potential clients like Gish and his company are one of the reasons the federal contactor sponsors the competition.
“We want to expand our reach beyond Oak Ridge,” said Jeremy Benton, B&W Y-12’s Commercialization and Partnerships Manager. “There’s a real value added when we support entrepreneurship to accelerate the commercialization of federal technologies.”
For Chris Daly, EC’s Director of Technology Development and Transfer, the event is one more way his organization is opening-up opportunities to Chattanooga companies.
“We’re the connective tissue between Chattanooga and our satellites,” he said in referencing Vanderbilt, Y-12 and ORNL.
Other entrepreneurs and their companies participating in Friday’s competition were:
- Greg Laudeman of Eduity;
- Bob Papp of Accurate Automation;
- Casey York of Green Arc Labs; and
- Lawrence Miller of Miller & Associates.