The Chicken Story: How BioSafe Systems was Hatched

By: Rob Larose, CEO & President of BioSafe Systems

During every new BioSafe Systems’ team member’s initial week of training, they listen to me ramble on about the chicken story. It is an essential element of how we got started.

It may seem odd that a company that got its start within the professional horticulture business has a story about chickens, but that is exactly how it all began. BioSafe Systems is a family business that got its start through a partnership between father and son. My father, Rene Larose, spent 35 five years in the poultry business working for a company called Arbor Acres. Arbor Acres specialized in producing the breeding stock (baby chickens) that would be sold to major chicken producers such as Purdue Farms, Tyson Foods and others.

Arbor Acres genetically bred their baby chickens to be suited for the various environments they would be sold into. Arbor Acres was also a family business started by two brothers and eventually grew into a company that did business worldwide, producing baby chickens that were disease indexed and guaranteed to be free of viruses, bacterial and fungal infections.

My father’s role as a microbiologist was to maintain the health of the “stock” chickens that produced the fertilized eggs from which the chicks were hatched, and the health of the fertilized eggs and hatched chicks until they were transported to the chicken farm that purchased them. Arbor Acres had operations all over North America comprised of containment farms that housed the stock birds and hatching operations.

It is very much like the propagation and breeder business model within the agricultural industry. Instead of propagating plants, they were propagating baby chickens. However, unlike plants which are propagated with a “built-in disease resistance factor”, chickens are biological in nature. Their disease resistance capabilities do not fully become functional until the second week of hatching, so they were very susceptible to various viral, bacterial and fungal diseases. Standard operating procedures in the poultry industry are to use a variety of pharmaceutical interventions and inoculations to boost their defense resistance. However, the first two weeks were always very tricky to maintain the health of the flock due to environmental and pathogen challenges. Young Plants – Young Chickens.

One of the company’s tricks was to fumigate the chicken hatcheries between hatching cycles with formaldehyde gas to sanitize the facility. Ultimately, they found a way they could fumigate on a consistent basis while the chickens were hatching. It was a known factor that without this essential sanitation step, they would have a mortality rate in excess of 25%. A method was developed and provided a form of “chemotherapy” to the newly hatched birds. This method consisted of a constant, low dose of sanitation using formaldehyde with concentrations high enough to kill the pathogens but not enough to kill the baby birds.

This system worked well until the State of California intervened at the Arbor Acres facility outside of Fresno. They were given a cease and desist order from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, due to the residual formaldehyde within the hatchery (formaldehyde was a suspected carcinogen.) This development forced my fathers’ company to find an effective alternative.

The solution that my father found was a form of activated hydrogen peroxide called Peroxyacetic Acid. It was determined that this formulated peroxygen works every bit as well as formaldehyde but did not present the health and safety concerns. Chlorine was out of the question because of its toxicity, so the activated peroxygen looked promising.

Where the application of formaldehyde was easy because it was a gas, the peroxyacetic acid application had to be done via microaerolized spray. Almost immediately, my father’s solution outperformed the formaldehyde applications and the company was back up and running. The peroxyacetic fog provided better disease control, but more importantly, the baby chicks reacted better.   They took on feed and water 50% faster than they did with the formaldehyde treatments.

So, how did we make the leap from chicken to plants you ask? Well, when my father saw how well the peroxyacetic acid worked in replacing formaldehyde, he began talking with my uncle who owned a retail greenhouse. Both my father and uncle graduated from University of Connecticut with Microbiology degrees. My father went into the poultry business and my uncle went into health care. He started one of the country’s first blood testing labs and then retired to his passion, which was horticulture.

My father and my uncle started experimenting with the peroxyacetic acid formulation to see if they could clean up algae around the greenhouse and found that with some modifications, they could also spray it on the plants to kill off some of the powdery mildew and botrytis problems my uncle was having on his poinsettia and geranium crops.

Ten years after graduation, I found myself working in the environmental field cleaning up Superfund sites around the country. My epiphany moment came after completing a 40-hour safety training on the dangers of Temik insecticide and realizing my uncle regularly applied Temik in the greenhouse without any PPE (personal protection equipment.)

My uncle had never met a pesticide that he didn’t like, and ultimately was diagnosed with colon cancer and died after a five-year battle with that deadly disease. In many ways, his death prompted me to think that there had to be a better way to put the “green” back in the green industry. Remembering my uncle spraying the Temik, I decided to take some soil samples from the greenhouse and have them analyzed for contaminants.

What came back was a long list of heavy metals such as mercury and arsenics, as well as organophosphate pesticides that were way above the limits of any superfund site that I had been working on. The greenhouse had been there since the 1940’s and every pesticide ever sprayed had somehow made its way into the soil.

One thing that most people don’t know about the green industry is that when you spray a pesticide, the overspray will find its way to the ground. Even though the person applying is protected by a respirator and chemical suit, the pesticide that is being sprayed becomes part of the environment and attaches itself to soil particles that later dry out and become dust. These dust particles then float back up into the air where they may be ingested or inhaled by people who later enter the greenhouse to work.

The scary thing is that the US EPA only requires pesticide manufacturers to submit information on the individual compounds used in a formula to review them for safety. No one could ever do safety testing on the infinite combinations that are possible when these compounds are combined as a result of residual accumulation.

When I realized that I had eaten countless pizzas and sandwiches in that same greenhouse, it got me thinking about how much I ingested. There had to be a “cleaner” way to provide pest control within the growing environment. At the time, there were no terms to explain the ideas I was proposing. Today, our products are considered “green”, “sustainable” and “organic” by the industry.

Our approach is to provide products that do not leave behind any toxic residual or legacy. We leave no footprint behind.

So, it started with the chicken which evolved into a fertilized egg that helped hatch a new business enterprise aimed at providing sustainable solutions for a variety of industries– including the greenhouse industry that began the 20 year legacy of BioSafe Systems.

Ten Ways Your Garden Center Can Be Greener

  1. Recycle/Reuse plastic containers: Typically, plastic does not lose its strength so reuse pots and trays when possible. Simply wash and sanitize in a solution that is not chlorine based. Provide recycling for plastic containers to your customers and encourage them by offering discounts on purchases.
  2. Sell compostable pots. There is a growing number of suppliers and you may be able to gain a premium if you market them correctly.
  3. Use organic, certified pest control products when possible. They are becoming more effective and don’t impact your environment, employees or customers.
  4. Recycle or capture irrigation water whenever possible. Create a pond on-site to use as supplemental irrigation water while adding an appealing design element to your garden center.
  5. Offer your customers alternatives to synthetic fertilizers. This is a large factor in being sustainable. Look for nutrition products that are derived from plant material like seed oil extracts.
  6. Offer a wide variety of vegetable plants and herbs, so that your customers can grow their own food.
  7. Let your customers see your compost pile and teach them how to make their own. Sell them the additives to make their own potting soil such as biological inoculants and slow release oxygen granules.
  8. Provide your customers with information brochures as to how to grow with sustainable products. Ask your vendors to provide educational materials.
  9. Reduce and remove as much plastic packaging as possible. Offer paper, reusable bags or containers to bring purchases home.
  10. Have fun with your customers. It’s all about the experience. Embrace it and grow sustainability like we grow our plants.

Calcis® Application with SOLitude Lake Management Shows Excellent Results

 

Calcis Application in Lake and Pond

East Hartford, CT – SOLitude Lake Management recently tested the water quality at a site in North Carolina. The body of water revealed to be less than ideal conditions. With that in mind, SOLitude teamed up with BioSafe Systems for a lime application which would help increase alkalinity, hardness and buffer the pH in water systems. The ideal result would be the body of water would turn into a healthier, aquatic ecosystem.

BioSafe Systems’ Calcis® Liquid Calcium Carbonate, an alternative to aggregate the lime, minimized labor costs and expedited the application. The smaller volume of the material, less labor and equipment helped the lake management team complete the application in one day.

The Calcis was dispensed into the water via direct injection with a prop wash, used to help agitate the treatment area and provide better coverage. The results lined up with both the client and lake management teams’ expectations – Calcis improved the water quality and restored balance.

Click on the video below to watch the application and learn how Calcis Liquid Calcium Carbonate helped SOLitude Lake Management and their customer’s needs

Calcis

Calcis is a liquid lime supplement for use in lakes and ponds. Poor water quality conditions contribute to many issues including, but not limited to, an unbalanced pond food-chain, issues with pH, and low fish production. Calcis is designed to make liming any pond quick and easy. Click here to learn more.

BioSafe Systems Participates in Foodshare’s Turkey and a Thirty Drive

Every year, BioSafe Systems participates in Foodshare’s Turkey and a Thirty drive to help provide traditional Thanksgiving meals and year-round support to local families in need.

“As a Connecticut based company, we are always looking for ways we can give back to our community,” says Jonah Dorsey, Marketing Coordinator for BioSafe. “Unfortunately, hunger is a reality for thousands of CT residents. By working with Foodshare, we believe we can help solve this issue”.

In the several years BioSafe Systems has participated in this event, the company has raised money and collected turkeys in a variety of ways. “Every year we have been trying to find new ways in which we can increase the amount of donations we collect,” Dorsey says. “We have organized social media campaigns, had company-wide donation contests and organized events.”

This year, BioSafe looked to generate more community involvement. In addition to the donations raised by its employees, the company looked to their neighbors at Founders Plaza for help. All in all, over $5,000 was raised and 27 turkeys were collected. Donations are still being collected through the holiday season on site.foodshare.org/biosafesystems.

“It’s easy to take for granted how lucky some of us are,” Tammy Raymond, Brand Manager for BioSafe Systems adds. “Hunger is a reality for many people in our community. It is important that those who are able give back. Any donation, no matter the amount, makes a real difference in someone’s life.”

For the past 36 years, Foodshare has been effective in their approach to tackling hunger. For every $50 generated, the nonprofit can provide 125 meals. Additionally, every $14 provides a turkey to a family during the holiday season.

BioSafe’s participation in a Turkey and Thirty has generated hundreds of turkeys and tens of thousands of dollars. Each year the company looks for new ways in which it can get more involved. “BioSafe Systems is in the business of creating value in the food chain,” Rob Larose, President and CEO of BioSafe Systems adds. “It is only fitting that we find a way to give back. We need to support those have supported us in years prior.”