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Hooked yet? Triad company uses scent to develop organic bait

By John Joyce
Reporter, Triad Business Journal (Greensboro, NC)

December 21, 2018


DECEMBER 21, 2018, GREENSBORO, NC
 - Scents that make cents.

And potentially millions of dollars.

That's the theory at Kepley BioSystems Inc. in Greensboro, where the folks have been field testing their flagship product, Organobait, for the better part of four years.

The development has been funded almost exclusively by grants from the National Science Foundation.

In that time, the biosystems startup that grew out of the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering Nanomanufacturing Innovation Consortium has created an organic bait fish compound that could revolutionize the fishing industry, sustain ecosystems and the environment and spur a healthy return on investment.

Not to mention the designer worms.

“You have a worm, a protein capsule, that you can load with 50 percent of whatever you feed them,” said Anthony Dellinger, president of KBI.

The worms are specifically fortified to be used as bait fish feed – like a pill, he said.

Hooked yet?

The fishing industry is. Organobait can replace the costly, environmentally and population-devastating practice of capturing mass quantities of bait fish to be used in fish-trap lobster and crab fishing.

It’s inexpensive to make, costs little to deploy, has no storage requirements – so little to no overhead for commercial fishers – and the crustaceans love it.

The best part is there are no negative environmental impacts because it’s organic.

“We don’t put anything in it that doesn’t exist there already,” Dellinger said.

The National Science Foundation funding – $750,000 in Phase II funding – that has supported Organobait's research and development, both the science behind it and the market research, is soon to run out.

Dellinger and company have not yet begun to mass produce or market the product, but are seeking to do so soon with a narrow focus in Louisiana’s crawfish industry.

With more than 400 million traps deployed in the state’s waterways annually, a single Organobait in each trap would equate to a healthy profit with slim margins and no environmental impact, Dellinger said.

Concurrently, KBI is nearing a rollout on another scent-based product as well, one that dog owners will appreciate. With today's working families spending 10 to 12 hours aday running the rat race, and then six or more hours sleeping each night, the family beagle is spending up to 20 hours per day in the house.

So once it's time to go outside and do what dogs do – hopefully in a wooded area away from waterways or foot traffic – their senses can be overwhelmed, Dellinger said.

"It could take 10 minutes for them to use the bathroom," he said.

When it's 7:45 a.m. and the owner has to be at work by 8 a.m., that can be a frustrating situation for the pet and its human.

So KBI, applying lessons learned in developing scent-based fish bait, applied the same logic to dogs. Dogs use the olfactory sense the way humans use sight, Dellinger said. Hence K-9 service animals – dogs used in forensics and drug or bomb-sniffing applications, etc.

After a single drop of what KBI is calling Kepley K9 Solution is applied to its front paw before stepping outside, the dog's sense of smell is triggered, directing it to not be distracted by the outside smells and to "do its business" directly.

How directly? The average time from stepping outside to hunching over and "performing" is under two minutes. That's over a 30-day testing period. Given the amount of pet owners in urban environments, the potential applications in the veterinary, kennel and pet rescue spaces, the marketability is substantial, Dellinger said.

Organobait and Kepley's K9 Solutions are nearing market ready stages – no word yet on those designer worms.

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Kepley BioSystems, Inc. is located at Gateway Research Park (North Campus) located at 5900 Summit Avenue, Brown Summit, NC 27214.