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Local Startup Founded by State High, Penn State Grad Part of Capitol Hill Showcase

by on November 29, 2017 4:36 PM

A State College-based agricultural startup founded by a State College Area High School and Penn State graduate was recently selected to participate in an innovation showcase in Washington, D.C.

Phospholutions was one of 20 startups selected from more than 100 applicants to take part in the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities first University Innovation Showcase, which held on Capitol Hill to show the impact of the economic development that can result from federally-funded research.

The company -- which is helping golf courses and other locales grow stronger turfgrass in a sustainable way -- was founded by Hunter Swisher a 2012 State High graduate and 2016 graduate from Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences. While studying plant science he learned about decades of university research into ways of growing stronger plants while using less fertilizer.

With assistance from the university's Invent Penn State initiative and State College-area entrepreneurial resources, Swisher worked to take that research out into the market.

Phospholutions' first product is Rhizosorb, which soaks up and holds fertilizer in the soil until the plant uses it. That forces the roots to grow deeper, creating a stronger plant, and reduces the amount of fertilizer needed as well as fertilizer runoff, which can be damaging to the watershed.

After starting out with the Penn State Golf Courses as its first big golf course client, Phospholutions has begun providing Rhizosorb to other courses as well.

Swisher told earlier this year that he plans to keep the business based in the State College area, which he sees as a booming environment for entrepreneurs.

"I grew up here in State College, went to Penn State and I’m continuing to stay here mainly because of the ecosystem that’s been developed here," Swisher said. "I feel like this is a place where entrepreneurs are starting to realize we can settle down and have a great community, a lot of resources and bumping into other entrepreneurs all the time. And now we have Penn State backing up this [Invent Penn State] initiative and opening the resources and the buildings that we can all join and work in this co-space."

Phospholutions was represented at the innovation showcase in D.C. by COO Ben Nason, a recent Penn State grad who was the company's first full-time employee and who has been very involved in the local entrepreneurial community.

“We are honored to have been selected to participate in the first University Innovation Showcase on Capitol Hill,” Nason said in a news release. “Legislators need to know the incredible research that comes out of Penn State and everything the University is doing to support startups. Phospholutions wouldn’t exist without Penn State’s incredible support — training, networking, mentorship and connections to micro grants and funding. We are really proud to be a Penn State startup.”

Penn State Vice President for Research Neil Sharkey said Phospholutions was an ideal candidate to highlight the relationship between university research and entrepreneurship.

“Phospholutions is a perfect example of the impact Penn State research can have on economic development," Sharkey said. "We’re proud of the College of Ag’s productivity in tech transfer and of this undergraduate team, now graduated, that has worked so hard to create economic benefit while helping the environment.” 

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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