Growing Solutions with Phospholutions

Man nealing on grass using a tool to remove some grass

Hunter Swisher founded Phospholutions in the spring of 2016 while still a student majoring in plant science at Penn State. In the fall of 2015 while taking a class, he learned about a soil additive that would help plants soak up nutrients more efficiently. This technology, developed by his professor, was shelved for years because it was too expensive to commercialize. Hunter decided to write his final paper for the class on that technology, and during his research he found out there were three patents still owned by Penn State, and that they would be expiring in the next few years. Hunter spent the next year determining the key flaw in the technology that made it too expensive to commercialize. He was able to identify possible solutions for the flaw but wasn’t sure what to do next.

In the fall of 2015, Hunter was referred to the Penn State Small Business Development Center by his professor. The SBDC was able to assist him with preliminary business planning and market research, and we connected him to the Office of Technology Management for more information on the patents. The SBDC also suggested that he start field trials to determine the success rate of his product.

Hunter set out to do field trials, which helped him develop application methods and rates for his product. After the success of his trials, Hunter decided to set up his business in the spring of 2016. He was then able to participate in the Ag Springboard student competition. Phospholutions was one of six teams to pitch before a panel of judges in the final round. Hunter was more determined than ever to move his business forward, so he applied and was accepted to both the Summer Founders program and Happy Valley LaunchBox through the summer. The Summer Founders Program provided Hunter with $10,000 to work on his business over a 10-week period. Every Thursday night, the Summer Founders Program participants met with other founders, entrepreneurs, and mentors to further improve their project designs. At the same time, Hunter was participating in the Happy Valley LaunchBox accelerator program, which gave him the structure and guidance to move forward. In the fall of 2016, Phospholutions participated in the Invent Penn State Venture and IP Conference through the Inc. U. program. The student start-ups had been picked from entries in a video competition, earning the winners’ businesses $2,500 in investment funding. Phospholutions was then accepted into Ben Franklin’s TechCelerator program. The Penn State Small Business Development Center partners with the TechCelerator to accelerate the businesses and technology of the applicants. He was given $1,000 to use for business expenses, and he was provided with consulting, pitch guidance, market research, and accounting support. At the end of the TechCelerator program, Phospholutions made their first sale to a golf course in Boca Raton, Florida.

Hunter graduated in December 2016 and plans to continue moving forward as the CEO of Phospholutions. His first step will be applying to the Allegheny Clean Tech University Prize for products focused on renewable energy, and to obtain investment from his advisors.