The USDA announced that VRM Labs is a recipient of a $600,000 two-year grant for the development and commercialization of their flocculant for waste water recovery. The Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) is coordinated by the Small Business Administration and administered by 11 federal agencies, including USDA. It encourages domestic small businesses to engage in high-growth research and development with high potential for commercialization and that could lead to significant public benefit. Phase I grants invest in feasibility and proof of concept studies. Phase II grants help successful Phase I projects scale up, implement, and commercialize their ventures.

“For small agricultural businesses, the federal government is a key, initial investor to help them get great ideas into the marketplace,” said NIFA Director, Sonny Ramaswamy. “The feasibility and scalability of these business concepts are evaluated through our peer review process, and businesses get to keep their intellectual property rights as they commercialize their ventures.”

This VRM Labs flocculant product will be primarily targeted at livestock harvest facilities and rendering plants initially. Flocculants are used widely for clarification of waste water in many industrial applications. They work by causing a colloidal collection of the protein or fat in waste water for easier removal usually by skimming the mass of the top of the waste water vat. The product being developed by VRM Labs has been shown to be highly effective in the lab and in industry jar tests. This grant will be used to fine-tune the manufacturing process, to do scale-up to pilot and full scale manufacturing, to perform large-scale testing of the product with several prospective customers, and then to launch the product.

Dr. Alexey Vertegel is the CEO of VRM Labs and had this to say about the grant: “VRM Labs is extremely pleased to have this opportunity to prove our product for the industry through this grant. We are confident that we can make a significant contribution to the improvement of waste water recovery and that we can do it in a natural, biodegradable manner.”

The importance of a natural, biodegradable flocculant for the industry is huge. The most efficient products currently on the market are synthetic and could be toxic for the environment. Thus, the new natural product from VRM Labs could be extremely helpful in reducing environmental contamination.

VRM Labs is also in the process of developing other similar specialty chemical products for the livestock industries. A feed grade antioxidant for use in animal feed, in pet food, and in products of rendering prevents oxidation and improves the stability of these feed products. Another human grade application for the antioxidant is for use in pre-cooked meat products. That program is also under development.