Food-safety research grows into startup company

UNL faculty (from left) Harshavardhan Thippareddi and Jeyam Subbiah have teamed with a local entrepreneur to create a new startup company, Presage Analytics.
UNL faculty (from left) Harshavardhan Thippareddi and Jeyam Subbiah have teamed with a local entrepreneur to create a new startup company, Presage Analytics.

A new startup company has grown from the food safety research of UNL's Harshavardhan Thippareddi and Jeyam Subbiah.

Working through NUtech Ventures — a non-profit, university affiliate that develops partnerships between researchers and industry professionals — the two UNL researchers paired with a local entrepreneur to create Presage Analytics. The new startup will use a software prototype developed by Thippareddi and Subbiah to track microbial contaminants in food processing plants and prevent widespread outbreaks.

The project started after Thippareddi, a professor in food science and technology, and Subbiah, an associate professor of biological systems engineering, realized that the tracking of microbial data over time was the missing link in food safety programs. To close that gap, the researchers created software that tracks and analyzes environmental and product-testing data already collected by food processors.

NUtech Ventures helped match the professors' software prototype with ISoft Data Systems, a local company with expertise in inventory management and production management software, and custom website design

Food safety regulations mandate that companies in the food industry search for the presence of contaminants on a daily basis. The Presage software archives the food safety data collected, and its location in the processing plant. By monitoring trends and data over time, Presage believes plants will be better equipped to isolate and contain future outbreaks.

“The software provides the food industry a means to connect the dots in case of a food safety issue through trend analysis to manage and prevent future food safety issues such as recalls and foodborne illness outbreaks, which can be devastating for the industry,” Subbiah said.

Finding a local partner to develop the software was key to the company’s development.

“NUtech has been excellent in finding the right local partner,” Subbiah said. "We understand food safety issues and have the market domain knowledge, while ISoft has the capability to develop commercial-grade software and can provide prompt services to food industry customers.”

Matthew Wegener, president and chief executive officer of ISoft, saw an opportunity to use his company’s inventory software framework and apply it to a new industry.

“We see huge potential to get this product into the market quickly and to truly improve food safety internationally," Wegener said. "By using the software framework already developed by ISoft and using Thippareddi and Subbiah’s expertise, we have the best of both worlds. This has been a great partnership."

Presage Analytics has been working with a local poultry processing company as its beta customers. Recently, Presage took its first marketing step by exhibiting at a trade show focused on microbiology and food safety.

Wegener will serve as president of Presage Analytics. Thippareddi and Subbiah will serve as advisers as well as board directors. Anthony Merrit and Dillon Sadofsky, current ISoft employees, also serve as board directors. Sadofsky, a software engineer, takes a major role in developing Presage Analytics.

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