Bioverse on path of growth in Worthington's BAC
WORTHINGTON -- The Biotechnology Advancement Center (BAC) on Prairie Drive has a new tenant whose business is quietly growing.
Bioverse, which specializes in creating innovative ways to improve water quality, relocated from Pipestone to Worthington and began operating inside the BAC on Nov. 1, 2012. Since then, new employees have been gradually hired, according to company president Glenn Thuringer, and Bioverse now occupies all three incubator bays in the building.
"Counting myself, we now have nine people working in Worthington," Thuringer said. "There are also two additional people working remotely -- one in Pipestone, one in Morris. We've also added some new products, and over the course of the next few months we're going to be rolling out a couple more."
Brad Carson, who has been with Bioverse since 2005, is the company's sales director. He grew up in Pipestone, where he developed an early interest in agriculture through his involvement with 4-H and FFA.
"We basically use biologics (enzymes and bacteria) in our products to clean out water," Carson explained. "Our product consumes the nutrients out of the water and starves out the algae, taking the food source for the algae out of the water naturally.
"With our products, we treat everything from bird baths, fountains, stock tanks, small ponds, large ponds and even lakes," Carson continued. "The products all have the same basic make-up; it's just different amounts of product for different amounts of water."
Carson said Bioverse sells its products retail at Tractor Supply Co. locations across the country, as well as in catalogs such as Amazon, Northern Tool and Gardener's Supply Co. The company also works with turf companies, which Carson noted sell products to golf courses.
"Golf course treatment is a big part of our business," Carson said.
Another key component has to do with agriculture, he added. Bioverse sells product through distribution for treatment of manure in deep pits and lagoons on hog farms. The company works with Hubbard Feeds, as well as Hog Slat Inc. and other local and regional distributors.
"When you put our product in a deep pit or lagoon, the bacteria liquifies the solids in the manure and makes it easier to pump -- you can then use it to inject it out in the fields for fertilizer," Carson said.
A variety of other agriculture products (viewable at bioverseag.com) essentially accomplish the same goal, Carson said.
While the company started in Bloomington before its relocation to Pipestone, the company has long had a Worthington connection. Dr. Conrad Schmidt, one of the founders of Worthington's Oxford Laboratories, has continued to serve as Bioverse's chief technical officer and has had "a big hand" in product development, Carson said -- and there are more to come.
"We have some future agricultural products coming out. One is going to be a granular natural insecticide for the hog pits. We can actually treat the surface of the pit; instead of spraying the flies, we're going to treat the surface of the pit and kill them before they hatch," Carson said.
"We're also coming out with an oil-based product for treating deep pits when they're actively foaming," he went on. "Pits foam when they're out of balance - it's the production of methane -- and this product will knock down that foam."
While Carson has years of experience with Bioverse, the company has also recently hired new sales representatives. Mark Koepsell, who previously spent 26 years in the insurance industry, is employed as a golf course account representative.
"I started with the company in February and am looking forward to a change in career and doing something different than I did for so many years," Koepsell said. "So far I've been familiarizing myself with the customer base that we have and the products that we're selling. With the upcoming season, that's when things will really take off, because that's when we start treating the ponds -- after the snow goes away."
Another new salesperson is Ken Karwoski, who is employed as a direct distributor account representative. Originally from Rochester, he taught at St. Mary's School in Worthington and worked as a substitute teacher, as well as at Karl's TV & Appliance.
"We sell our product nationwide, but we're not a big enough company to have individuals everywhere," Karwoski said.
"He's selling our products into a company that has 30 sales reps, and they're then selling them into gardening centers (and other places)," Carson added.
Thuringer noted that Bioverse achieved an important sales milestone earlier this month.
"We've now shipped our first product internationally into Canada," Thuringer explained. "We've been contacted by a company who is going to be master distributor for the entire country. They're taking 16 of our products to start -- it's a wide variety, from the golf to the agriculture."
Thuringer added that Bioverse is also assessing other potentially lucrative revenue streams.
"We think municipal waste water, municipal water retention ponds are markets that would be very good for us," he said.
"We also do a lot with homeowners' associations," Karwoski said. "Anything where water's involved."
In addition to his salesforce, Thuringer is also proud of Bioverse's commitment to providing exceptional customer service.
"We were able to hire two local people that were involved in the Farley's & Sathers layoffs, Leeann Jeffers and Deb Strandberg," he said. "We're very fortunate to have them join us with the years of experience they bring to the company.
"The company is also very fortunate to have a full-time controlller that is in the process of moving to Worthington from Pipestone," Thuringer said, "Tom Vagt has been with the company coming on two years and has a lot of background knowledge from both big and small companies."
Additionally, Mark Huisman of Worthington has joined Bioverse as a manufacturing assistant.
"This really rounds us out for now," Thuringer said. "We think we're going to have a strong 2013 as far as sales, but we still consider 2013 a staging year for 2014.
"The way we have our sales team structured, the foundation they lay here in 2013 is really going to reap benefits in 2014. That's probably when we'll start considering any further employment growth."