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Small business success spotlighted by USDA at conference

This press release is available in Spanish.

ChoiceBatter's transformation from a federal laboratory bench technology to a grocery shelf product is among topics that will be discussed here today by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials and other participants attending the 17th annual conference of the National Association of Seed and Venture Funds (NASVF).

ChoiceBatter, the brand name for a line of low oil-uptake batters marketed by CrispTek, LLC, of Columbia, Md., is based on a rice-flour formulation created by Fred Shih and Kim Daigle, chemists with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.

In tests from 1998-2000, fried chicken, fish and veggies coated in the rice flour batter absorbed up to 50 percent less cooking oil than traditional wheat batters. The rice batter also produced a crisp, golden-brown coating. But existing food companies didn't show any interest in the product, and the recipe languished for several years.

However, following the creation in 2007 of a unique program called the Agricultural Technology Innovation Partnership (ATIP) under the auspices of ARS' Office of Technology Transfer (ARS-OTT), CrispTek licensed the patent in April 2008 and was able to commercially develop and begin selling the rice batter.

"We established this program out of recognition that a federal research agency like ours is limited by mission and resources as to what services it can provide to industry partners who can commercialize and market the outcomes of federal research," said Rick Brenner, Assistant Administrator for ARS-OTT in Beltsville, Md.

"ChoiceBatter is an ideal case study," he added, "because it demonstrates the complexity of turning a federal innovation into a commercial product, as well as illustrates the ATIP program's effectiveness in leveraging necessary assets to fast-track a promising technology towards commercialization."

Under the ATIP program, ARS has signed Partnership Intermediary Agreements with nine regional economic-development entities strategically located around the country. The program is represented nationally by NASVF as the tenth member.

In the case of ChoiceBatter, ARS partnered with ATIP's inaugural member, the Maryland Technology Development Corporation, to provide CrispTek with technical, financial and other support. "CrispTek represents an outstanding early success of this novel program," said Brenner.

At today's conference, Brenner and other presenters will discuss highlights of a forward-looking economic impact assessment, including 2014 sales projections, which ARS and NASVF commissioned based on first-year sales data. The report shows the economic impact resulting from the manufacture and sale of ChoiceBatter in five states: Maryland, Illinois, Iowa, Texas and Louisiana. An additional focus of CrispTek's cooperative research agreement with ARS is expanding that economic impact.


Contact: Jan Suszkiw
United States Department of Agriculture -- Research, Education and Economics

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