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Cleaning Wastewater With Air Bubbles Wins ‘Ag Pitch’

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — A new project, Ag Pitch ’17, was added to this year’s Rural Maryland Council Summit in Annapolis.

The winner? A Rockville company marketing high-pressure bubbles to clean wastewater.

Ag Pitch encourages entrepreneurs to develop creative solutions for some of the problems facing farmers in Maryland.


Inventors and nascent businesses were invited to submit their inventions or designs, and their business plans. From those submissions, five candidates were chosen to compete in a “Shark Tank”-style competition at the summit.

The five finalists presented their business ideas and plans to 50-plus people and a panel of five business and agriculture professionals.

The winner of the $7,500 seed money was “Nano Air Bubble Aeration Systems,” or NABAS, pitched by Ben Lee of Rockville.

NABAS, already available in Asia and Europe, uses high-pressure bubbles to aerate and clean wastewater. NABAS applications are now being developed for poultry and dairy farms in Maryland.

The other finalists were Kelton Clark with “Open Shells,” a clearinghouse for programs and technology to expand the availability of oyster seeds.

“VakSea,” pitched by Mihir Pershad, provides low-cost vaccine technology for fish hatcheries. Bennett Wilson introduced a cheaper, more efficient spray nozzle for field use while Rick Hood introduced a soil-less growing medium for organic greenhouses.

Washington Post reporter and author Amy Goldstein was a keynote speaker.

For five years, Goldstein studied the effects of the Great Recession on small-town America.

She talked about her study and how it became a microcosm of the overal effects of the recession on the larger economy.

Her book, “Janesville: An American Story,” details the effects of permanent and profound job loss on the people living in Janesville, Wisconsin, following the Great Recession.

Goldstein said that shame haunts the permanently unemployed. In addition, Goldstein said her research showed little benefits from retraining people for other jobs.

Boyd Rutherford, lieutenant governor, was upbeat in his assessment of the state’s workforce and prospects for the future.

He said that the current government has worked to represent the needs of rural Maryland.

“There is no disconnect between Maryland’s government and rural Maryland,” Rutherford said, adding that during the Hogan administration, “Maryland has gained 125,000 jobs and our 3.3 percent unemployment is the lowest in a decade. The Rural Maryland Prosperity Investment Fund and the Tri-County Councils will be fully funded. Last summer, Governor Hogan signed into law the Connecting Rural Maryland Act of 2017, ensuring access to high-speed internet and broadband for all.”

The summit also included a series of breakout sessions on issues ranging from community and economic development to rural health care, public education, agritourism and affordable housing.

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