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NMSU introduces its next niche accelerator

NMSU introduces its next niche accelerator

By   –  Reporter, Albuquerque Business First

The health and bioscience industries are gaining traction in New Mexico. New Mexico State University has added to that by introducing a new specialized accelerator.

HealthSprint, run under NMSU’s entrepreneurship hub, the Arrowhead Center, will focus on teaching and supporting healthtech-related startups exclusively from New Mexico.

Wayne Savage, executive director of the Arrowhead Park, where the Arrowhead Center lives, explained HealthSprint came to be after he and others saw the progress NMSU’s health and life sciences programs were making, including the 2013 founding of the university’s Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine.

“The university had about 40 different programs across these different colleges and campuses here that all related to health care and life sciences,” Savage said. “Although it was not a touted strength or expertise of the university, we actually had a broad capability.”

Those capabilities then translated to creating an accelerator toward which NMSU could put its resources to help nurture New Mexico’s blooming digital health startups, also called healthtech.

HealthSprint is the Arrowhead Center’s second accelerator. Its inaugural accelerator, which wrapped up in August, was New Mexico’s first to focus on agriculture technology. Called AgSprint, its cohort was made up of five “agtech” startups from around the country. They went through a five-month program that came with $2,000 in funding and business development assistance for each.

Program director Zetdi Sloan said HealthSprint has been in the works for about a year. Unlike AgSprint, the upcoming program will only accept startups from New Mexico – 10 of them, to be precise. But similarly to the previous accelerator, it will be a five-month program throughout which the entrepreneurs will receive training and advice from health care and technology professionals as well as $2,000 in funding upon graduation. More capital opportunities will arise for some participants further down the road, too.

Sloan said the accelerator will be looking strictly for digital health or healthtech startups to better serve New Mexico in the future.

“We recognize that there are other accelerators and support systems out there for entrepreneurs in the health sector, but one of the reasons that we focused on digital health and not just health care, in general, is because we wanted to focus on those technologies that are addressing gaps in health care that are specific to New Mexico, specifically around delivering health care to rural communities.”

Telehealth is one example of what HealthSprint is looking for. An example of this type of technology can be found in ABQ-based Twistle, which provides a messaging platform allowing patients and physicians to communicate remotely. Twistle has so far raised more than $5 million, its most recent raise taking place in August with $1.5 million.

Sloan said the accelerator is targeting startups involved in “alternative areas” of health.

“We want to encourage entrepreneurs who are working in the digital health space that may not have necessarily categorized themselves as that before. So we’re really trying to target entrepreneurs who are working in things like education and music,” she said.

HealthSprint will be accepting applications through Dec. 10.

New Mexico has been embracing health and bioscience quickly this year. Most recently, the New Mexico Biotechnology and Biomedical Association hosted its inaugural Bioscience Tech Knowledge Fair & Expo at UNM in mid-October.

In August the state formed a Bioscience Authority, meant on building up the bioscience industry locally. It was put together after Gov. Susana Martinez signed the Bioscience Development Act, which will help establish measures like a community readiness program to evaluate how prepared New Mexico’s cities and towns are to foster bioscience companies.

In March, accelerator ABQid announced it would be starting its first focused cohort exclusively for health and wellness startups. During an interview in March, executive director TJ Cook told Business First the timing was right.

“We don’t want to just focus on health and wellness companies. We want to focus on building the health and wellness of the startups and the founders of those companies,” he said. “I think New Mexico is a great place for that.”

NMSU offers ‘research-only’ license to stimulate more start-ups

NMSU offers ‘research-only’ license to stimulate more start-ups

This article appeared in the July 2017 issue of Technology Transfer TacticsClick here for a free sample issue or click here to subscribe.

The TechMatch program at New Mexico State University’s Arrowhead Center offers a research-only license as an incentive to get would-be entrepreneurs interested in one of several hundred technologies just waiting for someone to turn them into start-ups. It’s a key element of the program — essentially a self-serve menu of innovations backed by a web of interlocking support services designed to push products to market — but it’s just one arrow in the quiver.

“We developed two new programs, FundMatch and TechMatch, to help entrepreneurs who are interested in creating a business but don’t know what type they want to develop,” says Theresa “Terry” Lombard, MBA, director of the Office of Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer at Arrowhead Center. FundMatch “offers funding capabilities to eligible individuals who already know they’re going to take a technology and turn it into a business,” she says. “TechMatch gives them the ability to match their interests to the technologies that are available.”

The research-only license “allows them to securely and comfortably explore the technology further without the commitment of an option or a license agreement.” The best next step, she explains, may be additional development in an I-Corps prep program or taking part in a proof-of-concept accelerator program.

How research-only deals work

“You’re allowed to do research only” with the limited license, Lombard emphasizes, “not product development or creation of derivative works. It’s just for exploration of the technology.” There is, of course, “some confidentiality involved as well,” she adds. And while each research-only agreement is “not quite custom each time,” it is, she notes, “particular to each technology.” Otherwise, she says, “the biggest way it’s different is there’s no cost involved, and with options and license agreements, there is.”

The information an entrepreneur gathers about a technology under a research-only license may, of course, result in a “no-go” decision, she emphasizes, but even that is an overall positive for the technology because the experience can provide useful information to the inventors about what the market would rather have. “The information can help accelerate the technology,” she says.

Relationship management is a key part of the program, Lombard adds. In about 30% of research-only licenses, inventors and entrepreneurs do come together to form a start-up. TechMatch not only assists in bringing the two together, but also offers help in deciding on which field of use makes the most sense based on market needs. “Like all license agreements, we have provisions to make sure technologies don’t sit on shelves,” she says, “and to make sure the start-up isn’t hurt up front.”

Research-only license buys time

TechMatch — funded by a U.S. Economic Development Administration i6 Regional Innovation Strategies program grant — and all its affiliated Arrowhead Center programs don’t operate in siloes, Lombard emphasizes. Rather, each feeds into and compliments the others. The IP Office’s “Technologies Available for Licensing” web page lists about 500 innovations in agriculture, biotechnology, medical devices, information technology, engineering, energy and water technology, she says, and it’s now collaborating with the NMSU Learning Games Lab and Creative Media Institute to add creative works to the offerings.

Entrepreneurs, she emphasizes, “can explore any NMSU technology for research-only purposes, then if they decide to move forward at any time, we’ll work with them.” Some of the technologies come from IP generated by partner institutions, including the Univeristy of New Mexico, New Mexico Tech and the Sandia, Los Alamos and Air Force Research Labs. Those organizations make up Innovate New Mexico, a statewide network that seeks to serve as a “united entrance” to New Mexico’s entire innovation ecosystem.

The exploration starts with “engaging in conversations about the research-only license,” Lombard says. Her office maintains the available technologies list; items have been vetted for patent eligibility and market viability. The other Innovate New Mexico institutions “go through similar processes to list and advertise their technologies,” she notes.

“TechMatch is a great way for people to explore technology in a limited-risk environment without fear,” she says. “But the key is you must have fertile ground to help them grow something wonderful.”

Web of support options is essential

Indeed, TechMatch participants who use a research-only license “are most successful when they engage in one of those programs,” Lombard adds. As an incentive, the Arrowhead Center operates the Catalyst Fund and the Arrowhead Innovation Fund, and “if you’ve been through one of our programs, you’re eligible.” The key elements of its commercialization environment include these:

  • Aggie I-Corps supports start-up teams in go/no go decisioning mode and preps them for the national version. Participants get coaching and $2,000; they must conduct 30 interviews with potential customers.
  • The annual LAUNCH competition is a four-month proof-of-concept/technology commercialization accelerator program; entrepreneurs are judged on commercial viability and progress made, and the top prize is up to $25,000 in equity investment. Lombard’s office developed a Lean Launch canvas for the event.
  • The Arrowhead Center just started three types of “StartupSprints” for participants on or off-campus. AgSprint is a five-month program “very similar to I-Corps,” Lombard comments, including the activities and the financial support. “Taking it gives you eligibility to participate in a national I-Corps program, which has a $50,000 award,” she adds. BizSprint focuses on export-based businesses; it’s a four-week program that can provide access to mentorship through Arrowhead Innovation Network Ventures. TechSprint tests the feasibility of technology start-ups.
  • Studio G is NMSU’s student business entrepreneurship program. Participants have access to an online curriculum, workspaces and guidance from the Arrowhead Innovation Network, a team of technical advisors, and a variety of funding opportunities.
  • NM FAST — that’s for “Federal and State Technology” — offers advocates and services to help small businesses navigate the SBIR and STTR programs and their proposal processes, as well as micro-grants of $650 for professional services, such as help with commercialization plan development or technology licensing.

Studio G students and grads “are a natural fit” for the TechMatch program, for example, she explains. One of them could opt for a research-only license and use the commitment-free period to take part in one of Arrowhead Center’s StartupSprints, the university’s LAUNCH program, or the Aggie I-Corp program to develop the technology further. “At the end, you have to make a go/no go decision about a business,” Lombard notes. “You could then engage in an option agreement to do more exploring before setting up an entity. Then you might be eligible for funding under the federal Small Business Innovation Research program or the Small Business Technology Transfer program,” which in turn could lead to an NMFAST microgrant, she explains.

In addition, Lombard points to the Arrowhead Technology Incubator, which offers mentoring and assistance with capital sourcing and customer acquisition, and Arrowhead Park, a public-private master planned community, as additional pieces in the commercialization ecosystem – as is Activando Emprendedores, a hands-on approach to entrepreneurship that’s conducted in Spanish.

“You have to have the ancillary programs,” she emphasizes — perhaps the financial programs most of all. “That’s the key,” she says. “I truly believe that you’ve got to have ways to help entrepreneurs move forward if they don’t have the resources. You’ve got to have that resource capability.”

Contact Lombard at 575-646-2791 or

Original article can be found here.

NMSU-based NM FAST sends companies to national small business conference

NMSU-based NM FAST sends companies to national small business conference

By Dana Catron
June 13, 2017

The New Mexico Federal and State Technology Partnership Program recently sent two New Mexico companies to the National Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer Conference held May 15-17 in Washington, D.C.

NM FAST is based at New Mexico State University’s Arrowhead Center.

The conference, which was once again co-located with the TechConnect World Innovation Conference & Expo and the National Innovation Summit & Showcase, provided opportunities to connect with representatives from 11 federal agencies. The conference also exposed the New Mexico attendees, who were not planning to attend prior to hearing about NM FAST funding, to the latest innovative technologies and placed the companies in front of representatives and program managers from SBIR/STTR funding agencies, industry leaders and veteran SBIR/STTR awardees.

At the conference, attendees were able to attend panel sessions with topics that ranged from SBIR 101 to how to leverage SBIR funding. All eleven agencies provided special briefings on ongoing and upcoming initiatives, along with tips and best practices to consider when applying to a SBIR/STTR funded by their agency.

“It’s NM FAST’s mission to provide small business owners the opportunity to compete and succeed in securing SBIR/STTR awards,” said Zetdi Sloan, program manager for NM FAST. “This conference provides an incredible resource for enabling direct contact with the business’ funders and customers.”

One of the most helpful facets of the conference, and one that both New Mexico companies were able to take advantage of, were the private one-on-one sessions with program managers from all eleven agencies. Companies were given 15 minutes to speak with a program manager and ask any questions they may have about the SBIR process, how their technology fits within the goals of the agency, etc. Speaking directly to the program manager provides companies with valuable feedback and ensures they are prepared to undertake the SBIR proposal preparation and submission process. This reduces the time, effort, and occasional frustration of trying to contact agency representatives via email or phone.

Michael Smith, founder and CEO of Benetracker, was happy to take advantage of conference funding.

“It’s been great being here at the conference to meet all the different federal agencies,” Smith said. “I had four meetings, three of which were super exciting.”

The conference allowed him to directly dialogue with agency representatives who spoke with him about the future funding priorities and goals of that agency, and he received direct encouragement and support for putting together his SBIR package. In fact, the National Science Foundation invited him to be a panel reviewer in their next round of submissions.

Conference attendee Brian Billstrand, founder of Sandia Nanoinks, LLC, also found the conference productive.

“Once we got the (NM FAST conference) funding, I was able to come to the conference and had a lot of great one-on-one meetings,” said Billstrand. “I made contacts at NSF, the U.S. Army, and have additional meetings with NASA. They’ve agreed to look over our executive summaries and gave me a lot of valuable information on SBIRs, STTRs, and a lot of other things my company has considered.”

Greg Scantlen, CEO of Creative C, attended this year’s conference and also received funding last year from NM FAST.

“I’d like to say thanks to NM FAST for funding me for my first trip here last year and helping me figure out the advantages of coming to this conference,” said Scantlen. “This year I really focused on one-on-one meetings and this morning I’ve met with DOE and Air Force and made some very significant connections. I was an SBIR Phase I awardee and have a Phase II in review, and I was able to meet with decision makers here at the conference, so that’s been extremely valuable.”

Seeing New Mexico businesses succeed at finding potential customers is always a highlight for NM FAST.

“Events like these even the playing field so that small businesses are able to explore more of what’s possible and be competitive on a wider scale,” Sloan said. “Having an opportunity to gain access to a potential customer is as much of a success to New Mexico as it is to the small business.“

The NM FAST team was also able to gain valuable insight from meeting with agency representatives and attending workshops and panels, which will bolster the efficacy of programmatic efforts going forward.

NM FAST hosted a dinner during the conference, bringing together researchers from Sandia National Laboratories and New Mexico small businesses. The dinner was a successful platform for future partnerships and collaboration between the lab and tech projects small businesses are working on.

Both companies applied for NM FAST assistance after attending the conference, and will be preparing SBIR proposals in the upcoming months.

NM FAST offers eligible small businesses assistance with funding efforts through SBIR and STTR programs, which offer more than $2.5 billion annually to support the development of technology by small businesses. The NM FAST program provides free assistance to New Mexico companies applying for a SBIR or STTR grant, and is funded through the Small
Business Administration. For more information, please visit:

Las Cruces Arrowhead Center-supported company selected as NMSBA success story

Las Cruces Arrowhead Center-supported company selected as NMSBA success story

June 1, 2017

A technology company supported by Arrowhead Center, the economic development and innovation hub at New Mexico State University, has been recognized by the New Mexico Small Business Assistance program as one of 10 success stories during its annual Innovation Celebration.

Earlier this month, Arrowhead Center co-hosted an NMSBA Innovation Celebration event to recognize Arrowhead client and NMSU engineering student Mariel Vargas Haddad and her business, Timer Glove. Timer Glove is a smart gym glove to help track workout characteristics including number of reps and rests between sets.

The NMSBA program utilizes researchers of Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory to assist small businesses overcome technical challenges. Arrowhead Center, as partner to the NMSBA program, utilizes the expertise of faculty and staff for the same purpose. Each year, the organization identifies the top 10 NMSBA companies to recognize their accomplishments after NMSBA assistance. This year, the Innovation Celebrations were hosted at those business owners’ home communities to help build connections with other local businesses and economic development officials.

Vargas’s entrepreneurial journey started during a 2014 Startup Weekend event, where initial feedback sparked her excitement to continue with her innovation. Vargas reached out to Griselda Martinez, director of Arrowhead’s NMSBA program, who connected her with the program and Associate Professor Jay Misra in the NMSU Department of Computer Science for further product advancement. Misra’s students, Vicente Ibarra and Gaurav Panwar, also joined this effort, and Martinez became Vargas’ guide and mentor.

Vargas’ progress in the entrepreneurship and commercialization pipeline continued in 2016 with her pitch at Arrowhead Center’s Aggie Shark Tank, a student business investment pitch event based on the popular TV show, where she secured two investments totaling $50,000. With this funding, Vargas hired programmers and designers to further develop her technology. In March of this year, she placed third and secured $15,000 in funding at a business plan competition hosted by University of New Mexico’s Anderson School of Management.

“My success story is all about good advising and good opportunities,” Vargas said. “If you have an idea or see an opportunity, the time is now.”

Another Arrowhead Center client who shared a success story at the celebration was Mike Lisk, whose entrepreneurship experience started when he and his wife bought a ranch in Lincoln County in 2005. With an idea for how to manage water on the large property, Lisk became an Arrowhead Technology Incubator client, where he worked with Zetdi Sloan. Sloan and Griselda Martinez connected him to the NMSBA, which he called a “conduit” and “shepherd for the whole process.” Lisk’s water management technology has been implemented in McKinley County and the Navajo Nation, where it has already had a direct economic impact.

Lisk said the more an entrepreneur stays engaged with development opportunities, the more opportunities will unfold. “NMSBA and Arrowhead Center are important storytellers in that process,” he said.

Among the attendees and speakers who turned out for the Innovation Celebration were Sandia National Labs NMSBA program leader Genaro Montoya and project manager John Martinez; Kim Sherwood and Wendy Rue, both project managers at Los Alamos National Labs; Kathy Hansen, director of Arrowhead Center; NM Rep. Joanne Ferrary; Las Cruces City Councilor Olga Pedroza; Sunland Park Mayor Javier Perea; Christine Logan with the New Mexico Economic Development Department; Jo Ann Garay, director of the Small Business Development Center at Doña Ana Community College; and Chris Dunn, program coordinator for Studio G, Arrowhead’s student business accelerator.

Sandia NMSBA Project Manager John Martinez encouraged innovators to apply for NMSBA assistance.

“It’s an accessible, one-page online application, not an encyclopedia of knowledge to root through,” he said. “The NMSBA locates experts, engineers, and labs to help the innovator achieve results.”

Last year, this program as a public-private partnership created more than 5,700 jobs and assisted businesses in all 33 counties in New Mexico, he added.

For more information on NMSBA, contact Griselda Martinez, director of NMSBA at Arrowhead Center, at 575-646-7096 or visit

Information from NMSU

Local invents BugZing repellent

Local invents BugZing repellent

By Steve Hansen Correspondent
May 10, 2017

Because mosquitoes have built-in chemical analysis labs and a local scientist has been working in fuel cell technology, Quay County can now play a role in helping South Pacific islanders combat the Zika virus and other mosquito-borne infections.

Bob Hockaday, a local independent Tucumcari scientist, has invented a device called a BugZing that can be worn like a wristwatch and puts out a scent that mosquitoes find repulsive, but the wearer cannot detect.

While Hockaday’s device is not yet licensed for sale in the U.S., a special permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is likely to allow the BugZing to be used to deal with a mosquito-borne health emergency in American Samoa, a seven-island U.S. territory in the South Pacific.

That permit is still pending, Hockaday said, but in the meantime, he is producing devices to ready them for shipment with the help of his son, Bobby Hockaday, and nephew, Ryan Pottenger, and some Tucumcari residents.

American Samoa is in a quandary, according to Rep. Vesi Fautanu, Jr., a member of American Samoa’s legislature. Fautanu contacted Hockaday about BugZing after hearing about it through a cousin of Hockaday’s.

Fautanu said American Samoa’s ability to use chemical sprays to eradicate mosquitoes is limited by a lack of resources and by regulations that prohibit the sprays in the territory’s many environmentally sensitive areas.

Residents observe “cleanup Fridays” to empty sources of standing water and clean out other places where mosquitoes might breed, he said, but American Samoa continues to have a high number of incidents of dangerous mosquito-borne diseases like Zika virus and dengue fever.

The BugZing promises to help ward off these health hazards, he said.

The BugZling works, Hockaday said, despite mosquitoes’ ability to detect carbon-dioxide as humans breathe it out, which is what signals them to hum in for a nourishing poke through the skin.

With Hockaday’s invention, however, the mosquitoes get a whiff of the citronella and Deet or eucalyptus scent on the human’s skin and turn away, Hockaday said.

The mosquitoes’ built-in chemical labs, he said, can detect more than 50 chemicals, and a combination of citronella and Deet or lemon-eucalyptus scent sends them literally looking for new blood.

Hockaday said the devices have been tested on volunteer subjects, some of them family members and many volunteers at New Mexico State University’s Hansen Laboratory, which specializes in studying diseases carried by mosquitoes and their biological relatives.

Dr. Immo Hansen, who heads the laboratory, declares in a video on the BugZing website that BugZing has been found “very effective.”

Hockaday said that combining mosquito-repelling citronella with another repellent chemical has a far greater effect on repelling mosquitos than either chemical alone.

The device requires energy to distribute the stuff mosquitoes hate. The energy comes from a narrow tube made of a flexible plastic that acts as a fuel cell. Hockaday has a patent on the material. Fuel cells use hydrogen and a chemical catalyst to produce electricity that is transferred to electrodes in the tube and then used to power the chemical-spreading mechanism in the BugZing device.

Fuel cells can put out up to 80 times more energy over time than many batteries, Hockaday said, but their use in the U.S. is nearly prohibited on small devices due to the perceived dangers of their hydrogen fuel, which have triggered security concerns in the U.S.

The BugZing is also rechargeable, Hockaday said, unlike other mosquito-repellent products. In the U.S., he said, recharging is accomplished by replacing a cartridge. In developing countries, he said, shopkeepers can inject chemical recharges.

Before the devices can be marketed in the U.S., Hockaday said, they must undergo a rigorous series of tests on humans to satisfy requirements of EPA licensing.

Hockaday is currently working with the Hansen Laboratory to design and conduct those tests, he said.

NM FAST program to host small business workshop in Clovis

NM FAST program to host small business workshop in Clovis

The New Mexico Federal and State Technology Partnership Program, housed at New Mexico State University’s Arrowhead Center, will host a workshop on how small businesses in New Mexico can fund their innovative ideas through the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs.

The workshop will be from 1:30 to 3:00 p.m. Tuesday, April 25, at Clovis Community College, 417 Schepps Boulevard, Room 100. Tickets are free and are available at

The workshop will also be live-streamed for those unable to make it in person. To register for the live webinar, visit

The workshop will explain how the SBIR and STTR programs can help fund innovative ideas in New Mexico. The workshop will cover the basics of the federal government’s seed fund – the SBIR/STTR programs; an overview of the NM FAST program and how it can assist small businesses with proposal submission; critical steps towards preparing a winning proposal; and a question and answer session.

The NM FAST Partnership Program provides small businesses with:

  • Assistance in identifying appropriate solicitations and topic areas;
  • How-to information on agency registrations and electronic proposal submission;
  • Guidance on proposal preparation, including assessments of technical objectives and hypotheses and drafting supporting documents such as biographical sketches, resources and budgets;
  • Specifics on the target agency’s requirements for commercialization content in Phase I/Phase II proposals; and
  • Technical reviews and edits of proposals with feedback.

In addition, NM FAST will provide select clients up to two micro-grants of $650 to cover the expenses of professional services such as commercialization plan assistance, development partner identification assistance, research partner identification assistance, counsel on patents and technology licensing, and indirect cost rate advisement for proposal development.

For more information, contact Dana Catron, program coordinator for the NM FAST program, at 505-358-4039 or

Micro ranches and these other agriculture startups are nothing to chirp at

Micro ranches and these other agriculture startups are nothing to chirp at

New Mexico’s first agriculture technology accelerator has selected its cohort of startups — and they’re nothing to chirp at.

The Las Cruces-based Arrowhead Center first announced its agtech program, called AgSprint, in February. Of the nearly 50 applications received from around the country and the world, six were selected, five from the Land of Enchantment. The sixth — Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch — hails from Denver and offers an alternative source of protein.

The micro ranch raises and sells “microlivestock” in the form of crickets, waxworms and mealworms. But you won’t find the last two referred as such on any menu. Instead, the startup has created more marketable names for them: galleria and molitos.

Wendy Lu McGill, founder and CEO of Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch, said the company’s product has been received well in Denver. Since launching in 2015, the two-person team has gained five Denver-area restaurants as customers. Among them is Linger, a high-end establishment that has made headlines for serving the startup’s insects. She hopes to possibly set up shop in New Mexico, creating jobs in the process.

“Crickets are relatively easy to raise,” McGill said. “They’re also arguably the most popular edible insect in North America right now.”

She told Albuquerque Business First the micro ranch has held up to 250,000 crickets at one time. They have seen up to $5,000 in revenues so far, but McGill expects that to increase after the ranch graduates from AgSprint in about four months.

“We’re are learning so much through the customer discovery process and really questioning our basic business theory,” she said.

Raising and harvesting crickets is substantially more sustainable than traditional livestock, McGill said. For example, it takes 22,000 liters of water to produce 10,000 grams of feed to get one kilogram of beef. Alternatively, less than one liter of water for 1,700 grams of feed is needed for one kilogram of cricket protein production, according to the micro ranch’s website.

Bonus fact: RMMR’s microlivestock are usually fed leftover grains from Denver microbreweries and distilleries.

The other AgSprint startups are:

  • Wildlife Protection Management — offers a platform to manage and protect wildlife using non-invasive humane means, making it easier, more comprehensive and affordable to set goals for species populations and habitat health.
  • Ag Coalition — offers a digital marketplace where all parties, from suppliers to producers to retailers, may review, evaluate, purchase, and otherwise conduct business in the agricultural supply chain.
  • Revolution Agriculture — creates closed-system, organic farms that produce eight times the yield per square foot, run 100 percent on renewable energy, use 90 percent less water and empower communities to solve food insecurity locally and in any environment.
  • Gonzo Farms — created the Eddy 2.0 Vortex Brewer, which increases beneficial microbes and fungi for optimum reproduction in soil.
  • Enchanted Seeds and Sustainable Management — offers a management decision platform and certification program that helps agricultural producers properly identify potential products to reach sustainability while considering economics and future agricultural production.

Zetdi Sloan, director of Arrowhead’s Technology Incubator, previously told Business First there has been a greater global need for agtech recently. AgSprint was created to meet that demand, making it the 12th similar program in the country.

New Mexico generates $6 billion in revenue through agriculture alone, according to NMSU’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. When food processing is included, that raises the number to about $11 billion.

Team expertise, scalability and potential economic impact were among the top factors judges took into consideration, Sloan said.

“A portion of the review process [for participants] was trying to understand how our resources and assets in this state and within our regional partners’ network would benefit the applicants and their teams,” Sloan said.

The six startups will be awarded $2,000 each if they complete the first five weeks of the AgSprint curriculum, receive business mentoring and space in which to test their products.

At the end of the program in August, the companies could also become eligible to join the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps Program — called I-Corps — and possibly receive up to $50,000 in funding.

Sloan said the Arrowhead Center will open applications for a health technology program once AgSprint wraps up. The dates for that have not been finalized.

Creating such an accelerator would follow a rising trend in New Mexico, showing a budding spotlight on the state’s health and bioscience industries. Last month, ABQid announced it was going to become a health and wellness accelerator for the next three years. Last week, Gov. Susana Martinez signed into law a bill that sets into motion the establishment of an official bioscience authority in New Mexico.

NMSU’s Arrowhead Center launches AgSprint program to support innovation in agriculture

NMSU’s Arrowhead Center launches AgSprint program to support innovation in agriculture

A new program by New Mexico State University’s Arrowhead Center is offering help to those looking to develop innovative ideas related to agricultural technology.

The Arrowhead Technology Incubator is launching AgSprint, a five-month venture builder program designed to support innovation in agriculture, early this spring. AgSprint acts as a facilitator, connecting agricultural entrepreneurs to financing, demonstration and validation partners, academic faculty, corporate partners and more.

“The ideal candidate would be someone who is very driven, seeking capital, industry connections and/or development partners, and is who is very passionate about contributing to efficiency and productivity in agriculture,” said Zetdi Sloan, director of Arrowhead Technology Incubator. “Ag tech applicants run the gamut from basic business operations – reducing paperwork, improving productivity and enabling e-commerce – to specialties such as drone and robotic technology for overseeing fields, moisture levels, pesticide and fertilizer usage and equipment, as well as for developing new seed varieties and predicting crop yields and commodity prices.”

Sloan said that the initial three weeks of the program will follow the ICORPS model that tests the feasibility of the venture. Graduates will receive $2,000 and the necessary National Science Foundation lineage to apply for the $50,000 national ICORPS program. Additionally, applicants will be able to receive up to three micro-grants, valued at $650, to cover the expenses of professional services such as technical writing, website development, counsel on patents and technology licensing, and regulatory consulting. Those who show promise will also be invited to continue the program for the next four months. Participants are able to access the program remotely.

AgSprint is of particular importance to NMSU as the university board of regents oversees both the New Mexico Department of Agriculture and the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.

Rolando Flores, dean of ACES, is supportive of AgSprint.

“One of the college’s priorities is in the area of value added,” Flores said. “AgSprint is a great avenue for our faculty to contribute their knowledge and expertise to advance agribusiness initiatives that can positively impact the economy of our state.”

AgSprint-supported ventures will receive customized support tailored to each entrepreneur’s unique path to business development and financial success. Along with the Arrowhead Investment Fund, AgSprint can tap into private, state and federal funding, curate a list of opportunities and assist with proposal/pitch development to make time-to-market more efficient.

Founded by civic leaders, AgSprint’s mission is equal parts public and private and designed to bridge the gap between what people need and what governments can provide. AgSprint will focus on developing ideas in areas such as animal health and nutrition; bioenergy; drones and robotics; food technology, safety and traceability; and soil and crop technology, among other themes.

By bringing together researchers, regulatory consultants, public/private funders, ag business experts and technical resources, AgSprint offers a wealth of knowledge under one roof.

Funding for AgSprint is provided by the U.S. Economic Development Administration University Center program and New Mexico Gas Co.

The deadline to apply is March 10. The program will begin in early April. For more information, visit

Arrowhead crunches numbers for New Mexico businesses

Arrowhead crunches numbers for New Mexico businesses

LAS CRUCES – Sure, mixing cow manure, food scrap and agricultural field waste together sounds like a great idea. But is there any money in it?

As it turns out, yes.

But Bob Hockaday would not have known for sure his idea to churn the messy mix and harvest the result for fuel and fertilizer would work without the assistance of New Mexico State University’s Arrowhead Center. Among the programs Arrowhead offers entrepreneurial ideas to bring to market is one supported in part by the U.S. Economic Development Administration University Center for Regional Commercialization. The free program requires four to six hours of collaboration with the research team, then turnds them loose to do the work. Participants in other areas of the state don’t even have to leave their office. All communication can be handled over the phone and through an online portal.

People with ideas for a potential business can get help in determining the viability of their plan, said Zedti Sloan, director of the Arrowhead Technology Incubator. Startups, businesses that want to expand and governmental organizations from throughout New Mexico can apply to receive help with researching their venture, preparing environmental impact statements, addressing financial planning and entrepreneurial training. Two areas, market intelligence and financial intelligence services, are offered to help the entrepreneur make a faster decision based on hard data.

“We recognize there is a need for very targeted assistance for specific goals entrepreneurs are pursuing,” Sloan said. The information from Arrowhead provides “a better understanding of customers and capital-raising activities.”

Participants can request specific financial intelligence services, like estimating startup costs, preparing financial forecasts, estimating the company’s value and developing pitch presentations. Market intelligence services include determining where a company should devote more resources, which markets are profitable, shopping patterns and what demographic segments the company could hope to attract.

In essence, the program is answering questions as to whether an idea that seems brilliant to the entrepreneur will have any value and make a successful business in the real world. The information gathered by Arrowhead on the business’ behalf can also be helpful, even necessary, in applying for funding.

“We asked ‘If we make this fuel, who will buy it and what price will they buy it at? Is the business plan technically feasible? Can we put this all together and come up with a workable plan?'”

After going through the process, Hockaday was able to apply for a secured loan through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Most recently, he landed $86,000 in Local Economic Development Act dollars from the state and the city of Tucumcari. The money funded the purchase of a defunct ethanol plant, which he plans to outfit to refine biofuels from the messy mix mentioned above.

Hockaday, who holds several patents, says he is “in the inventing business” and has created many devices related to energy generation and consumption. He is the president of Energy Related Devices, Inc., which he founded in 1994. With his business partner, Tucumcari farmer Robert Lopez, he hopes to reinvigorate the abandoned fuel plant to address not only the need for biofuels that don’t take corn and grain out of the food chain, but also to tackle the problem of animal waste from feedlots and dairy farms that dot eastern New Mexico and the Rio Grande Valley.

The ethanol plant came equipped with six 45,000-gallon mixing tanks that could produce three million gallons of ethanol a year. And, Hockaday found, that mix of manure, food waste and field waste – such as corn stalks or other material that would normally be left to be turned into the soil – was a perfect mix to produce biofuels. The resultant waste, the remains of corn stalks, manure and food, comes out as a perfect fertilizer, he said.

“We’re taking the garbage, breaking it down and harvesting” biofuels, Hockaday said. “We are replacing the grain feed (currently) used to make ethanol.”

He said there is great potential to replicate the biofuel production plant at closed ehtanol plants that dot the Midwest. He hopes to grow the business by adding a greenhouse for aquaponics and aquaculture.

“We have water, fertilizer and a source of heat,” he said. “We want to encourage a greenhouse grower.”

But realizing his goal would not have gotten as far as quickly without the work of the Arrowhead Center, he said.

“This is a complex plan and I said ‘I need help.’ If you can make money at it, it can reproduce. If it’s not viable, it’s not going to keep going.”

To apply to Arrowhead Technology Incubator or for information, visit

Jason Gibbs may be reached at (575) 541-5451 or Follow him on Twitter @fjgwriter.

NMSU’s Arrowhead Center seeks applications to assist growth-oriented entrepreneurs

NMSU’s Arrowhead Center seeks applications to assist growth-oriented entrepreneurs

Arrowhead Center at New Mexico State University is now accepting applications for its U.S. Economic Development Administration University Center for Regional Commercialization, which provides a mix of business assistance services designed to help foster economic development within New Mexico’s commercialization ecosystem.

Venture research, impact studies and entrepreneurial training are available through University Center to startups, expanding businesses and governmental organizations in New Mexico. Zetdi Sloan, director of University Center, said the center offers targeted, market intelligence and financial intelligence services to aid entrepreneurs in making faster and more well-informed decisions.

“Starting or expanding a business is all about making informed strategies and taking calculated steps toward generating revenue and obtaining funding,” Sloan said. “To do this, you need to be informed about the facts and figures of the market and feel the pulse of your customers. However, without reliable data, you won’t be able to accomplish any of these goals.”

University Center addresses strategic development and growth challenges such as penetrating new markets, securing funding and refining business models.

For more information, and to apply, visit