As traceability concerns grow, private firm’s proprietary substance fills niche
Producers and consumers alike had an up-close look at the need for farm biosecurity during the avian flu outbreak that killed roughly 50 million birds beginning in December 2014. Two years later, a private tech firm called BioWALL, which helped Midwest farmers recover from that devastating event, is expanding its proprietary chlorine dioxide sterilant across ag sectors.
It’s also focused on risk-management training to prevent outbreaks in poultry, hogs and produce.
“We bring both the large-scale ability to apply the gas and a lot of expertise around microbiological control and kill that’s much more strict than what the industry requires,” explains John Mason, chief science officer at Albany, N.Y.-based BioWALL, an acronym that refers to its mission of protecting water, air, land and life. Its technology is the only EPA-registered sterilant for broad-spectrum decontamination of porous and non-porous surfaces.
Ongoing Concern. Even as more consumers seek assurance about food production, data suggest contamination is a lingering concern. Annually, 3,000 American deaths are linked to foodborne illness, 128,000 people must go to the hospital for treatment and roughly one in six are sickened, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Preventive measures appear to be working: Nearly 30,000 fewer cases of foodborne illness are projected this year compared to 2015 levels thanks to inspections by the federal Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), according to a USDA budget summary. FSIS is budgeted to receive more than $992 million in fiscal year 2017 for inspections at the international, federal and state levels.
Attention to the basics is also invaluable, adds Danelle Bickett-Weddle, associate director of the Center for Food Security and Public Health at Iowa State University.
“Companies are developing broad spectrum disinfectants and using new technologies to improve vaccines,” Bickett-Weddle says. “It really comes down to the two-legged critters, the people taking the care of the four-legged critters, consistently doing their job every day.”
Persistent diseases present an opportunity for private-sector companies such as BioWALL to collaborate with producers.
Its customers include GSC Agribusiness in Carroll, Iowa. Its farrow-to-finish hog business finishes 200,000 hogs each year.
“If we can prove BioWALL effective in the management plan, it could eliminate the uses of vaccinations, reduce clinical breaks and change current strategies to control viral load,” says Shaun McGinn, director of operations. “On-farm viral load is a fact, and producers manage for it with on-farm biosecurity, washing, disinfecting and individual strategies.”
BioWALL sees its technology as a way to protect U.S. farming. “We need a broader spectrum, a lower overall residual toxicity and ways to control pathogens,” Mason says.