NUtech Ventures 2020 Startup Company of the Year
The Startup Company of the Year award went to Agricultural Flaming Innovations. The award recognizes a startup company — founded by UNL faculty, staff or students — that has made significant progress in becoming a sustainable business.
Agricultural Flaming Innovations is founded by George Gogos, professor of mechanical and materials engineering; Stevan Knezevic, professor of agronomy and horticulture; and Chris Bruening, who received his doctorate in mechanical and materials engineering from UNL. The team developed equipment that uses heat for certified organic weed control. When mounted to a tractor, it directs propane-fueled flames at weeds, which wilt and die — leaving crops unaffected.
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[00:00:02.920]I am George Gogos,
[00:00:04.300]I'm a professor in Mechanical and Materials Engineering.
[00:00:08.100]The main focus of my research
[00:00:11.260]is heat transfer and fluid mechanics.
[00:00:14.970]Flame weeding is a quite old method.
[00:00:19.930]The first patent on flame weeding was in the 1850s,
[00:00:26.350]but then the chemical industry
[00:00:27.750]came in with chemicals like Roundup and 2,4-D
[00:00:31.894]and all kinds of chemicals,
[00:00:34.780]and the industry was wiped out.
[00:00:39.070]And it recovered again in the 90's, in the early 90's,
[00:00:43.680]when organic farming started growing.
[00:00:48.440]In 2007, I received a phone call, an email, I think,
[00:00:53.260]from Professor Stevan Knezevic.
[00:00:56.240]He's a weeds scientist,
[00:00:58.290]he is in the agronomy department at UNL.
[00:01:02.430]And he was wondering, he was trying to find somebody
[00:01:06.640]with expertise in combustion,
[00:01:08.800]to help him with new equipment innovations
[00:01:13.700]in flame weeding equipment.
[00:01:18.170]So we decided to do some research.
[00:01:21.540]My engineering students were working during the summer,
[00:01:26.600]very closely with the agronomy students
[00:01:29.320]of Professor Knezevic.
[00:01:31.270]This is something unique.
[00:01:33.320]It is this merger of the weed science and the engineering,
[00:01:39.210]that basically led to some very, very good equipment
[00:01:42.740]which the market was very receptive to it.
[00:01:46.320]We started interacting with NUtech,
[00:01:48.720]so there are a couple of patents,
[00:01:51.300]and they're all within the torch.
[00:01:54.280]There's a primary intake for the torch.
[00:01:57.130]And then the torch is surrounded by shields,
[00:01:59.550]so that you can control where the hot gases are.
[00:02:02.610]And there's a secondary air
[00:02:05.080]that is also introduced under the shields,
[00:02:07.390]and that's where you get the hot gases
[00:02:10.490]that will kill the weeds.
[00:02:12.560]It is a very harsh environment there
[00:02:14.530]because you get temperatures close to 2000 Fahrenheit
[00:02:18.810]at the flame,
[00:02:20.140]and then at the exit of the shield,
[00:02:22.930]you get temperatures that are about 1500 Fahrenheit.
[00:02:26.750]Flame weeding is like a surgery.
[00:02:29.880]You need to remove the malignancy
[00:02:34.170]without damaging the normal tissue that surrounds it.
[00:02:39.090]So similarly, you have to remove the weeds
[00:02:42.300]without causing any damage to the crop.
[00:02:45.570]Reason that I'm excited about this research,
[00:02:49.780]it protects the environment
[00:02:51.220]and we're trying to keep it as clean
[00:02:54.500]and as safe as possible.
[00:02:57.440]And the team is great.
[00:02:59.280]And I'm looking forward
[00:03:00.390]to working over the next, I don't know, five, 10 years,
[00:03:04.010]with new startups and we know Nutech will be there.
[00:03:07.206](soft music plays)
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