Arizona Horizon Banner

May 14, 2014

Host: Ted Simons

Arizona Technology and Innovation:Artificial Pollination

  |   Video
  • Pollen-Tech is an Arizona State University-based company offering a spray that spreads pollen on plants. The idea came from an MBA student’s business plan. Pollen-Tech won a grant through ASU’s Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative and is based at ASU’s SkySong Innovation Center and the MAC6 manufacturing incubator in Tempe. David Wade, CEO of Pollen-Tech, will discuss his company’s product.
  • David Wade - CEO, Pollen-Tech
Category: Technology   |   Keywords: technology, innovation, pollen, bees, tech, spray, plants,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Tonight's focus on Arizona technology and innovation looks at Pollen-Tech, an ASU-based company that spreads pollen on plants through a spray-on solution. Pollen-Tech is based at ASU's SkySong Innovation Center and the MAC6 manufacturing incubator in Tempe. David Wade joins us now. David Wade is Pollen-Tech's CEO, good to see you. Congratulations on your success. Basically taking bees and putting them out of business. What's going on with this?

David Wade: Thank you Ted, well we aren’t trying to put beesout of business, but we want to give them a little bit of assist.

Ted Simons: And it is a spray on solution, give us more information here.

David Wade: What we have is the technology that uses 100% pure natural pollen. We harvest the pollen from whichever crop that we're going to be applying it to. And so -- but what we've done is we've developed a mechanical system using a pollen slurry, a liquid that we put the pollen into that protects it and helps it do better at pollinating and we spray it through an electrostatic sprayer, which helps it find its way to the stigma of the flower.

Ted Simons: How did you find a solution that doesn't compromise the pollen, that keeps it there but doesn't mess around with it?

David Wade: Well, through the last 20, 30 years there have been different groups trying to find ways to pollinate plants. If you go back in agriculture history a little bit, a few thousand years, four or five thousand years, you have people starting to control the watering of agriculture, and a tremendous increase from that. In fact, our agriculture here in Arizona would have a very difficult time without irrigation. We're using the systems of the hobo camps for example here in the Phoenix valley that was kind of a first wave of advancement or technology in agriculture. And then the next one happened fairly recently in history, not thousands of years, but fertilizing plants. The pilgrims were taught how to fertilize, to throw fish in there and some corn in there, and things like that, that the stories we all learned in elementary school were pretty good. But that increased the ability for crops to grow, because the -- they had the nutrients they needed. We kind of look at this technology as a third wave, because now the limiting factor, one of the major limiting factors on how much a plant can produce is how much it gets pollinated.

Ted Simons: And are there certain plants that you focus on, certain plants that do better with this system than others?

David Wade: Yes, there are. Out of all the food that you and I eat and the world eats about one-third of it is pollinated by insects. And that's about 270-280 billion dollars’ worth of food a year. But some of it is 100% dependent on pollination, for example almonds. Almonds are the largest export crop agriculturally for California, about $4 billion crop a year. And it's 100% dependent on bees to pollinate, because an almond tree has to be pollinated by a different variety of almond tree, and the bees have to carry the pollen from one flower in this tree to another one. If it carries to it another flower on the same tree or another flower of a similar variety, nothing happens.

Ted Simons: Bad bee.

David Wade: Yeah, well the bee doesn't know better. But if it goes across the row to the different variety, cause they plant different varieties in different rows, then you get almonds. And so with our process, we can give the farmer a whole lot more control over that pollination process because the farmer knows what kind of varieties he has and he can spray the pollen that that particular group of trees needs.

Ted Simons: How often do you need to spray?

David Wade: Well, pollination happens when whatever crop is flowering. If you're out in the almond orchard, for example, it's beautiful, it's almost like snow, the trees have about 65 or 70,000 flowers per tree. It's just gorgeous. But you only have to spray when those flowers are open, because the flower attracts the bee, and the center part of the flower, that little stigma, is where the pollen needs to go to. So when the flowers open and the stigma is receptive, well, we take the tractors up and down the rows and spray, we can do it once, twice, sometimes three times. It depends on the crop. But normally for almonds, for example, it's twice.

Ted Simons: Yeah I was wondering how as far as frequency, making sure you got it done without -- and again, if I'm buying these almonds, I got environmental concerns here --

David Wade: It's the same pollen the bee is transferring, it's 100% natural, it's no genetic engineering or anything.

Ted Simons: Let's -- What's the cost? And compare the cost to buying a bunch of bees.

David Wade: Well, that's been kind of interesting, because since about 2004, there's been a large amount of bee die-off throughout the world. It's become a real problem. And so costs on renting the number of hives that you need -- I'm going to use almonds again if you don't mind as an example. Has gone from about $50 per acre to about $370 an acre to rent the two hives that you need to have to pollinate that many almond trees. And so when you have 850,000 acres of almonds, like they do in California, and you have to rent two hives per acre, that's a lot of hives. It's $1.6 million hives. So the price has gone up tremendously. They even were importing bees from as far away as Australia last year to just get enough hives to do the job.

Ted Simons: My goodness, it sounds like you've got quite the operation going. Congratulations on your success and we hope to hear more about you in the future.

David Wade: Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Ted Simons: Thursday on Arizona Horizon, we'll hear from the author of a book that says the term sustainability is overused and needs clarification. And we'll learn about a promising new type of pediatric brain surgery. That's Thursday evening 5:30 and 10:00 right here on Arizona Horizon. That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

Around Arizona: Southern Exposure

  |   Video
  • Tucson Weekly Senior Writer Jim Nintzel discusses Southern Arizona issues, including the reemergence of the sanctuary movement at a Tucson church.
  • Jim Nintzel - Senior Writer, Tucson Weekly
Category: Environment   |   Keywords: environment, around, arizona, southern, exposure, tucson, church,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Time now for Southern exposure, our monthly check of what's happening in Tucson and other areas south of the Gila. Joining us is Jim Nintzel, senior writer for the Tucson Weekly. Good to see you again.

Jim Nintzel: Glad to be back.

Ted Simons: Thanks for making the trip up, I know it can be grueling at times. But you got here.

Jim Nintzel: Delightful drive.

Ted Simons: Yes, let's start with politics, let's start with that big race, congressional district two, Ron Barber, challenger Martha McSally, how is that shaping up? Because boy, it sounds like it's already rock 'em sock 'em down there.

Jim Nintzel: It absolutely is. They're already going after each other. Martha McSally who narrowly lost to Ron Barber two years ago, is back in the game. She does have two primary opponents, but they're poorly known, and poorly funded. So she's very likely to be the GOP candidate. And she is going after Ron Barber already on a whole host of issues, including the A-10, which she's a former A-10 pilot and one of the big things she's talking about is that Ron Barber has not done enough to protect the A-10 fighter jet, and that is a key part of the Tucson economy because the training is all based at the Air Force base.

Ted Simons: Talk to us more about the A-10, its future, and how big a deal that is down in Tucson.

Jim Nintzel: It's a huge deal in Tucson. The base is a huge part of the Tucson economy and losing that mission would be very damaging. Probably put the base on one of these possible closure lists in the future. And right now it seems as though the Air Force would like to divest itself of the A-10, they're looking ahead to a new jet, the F-35, which is going to be based up here in the Phoenix area. And they're looking to retire the A-10.The Congress on the other hand has other ideas, and in fact this week the armed services committee was debating it initially, the chairman of the armed services committee Buck McKeon, said that the A-10 should be placed into mothballs and storage down there in Tucson, ready to come back and Ron Barber actually pushed through a successful amendment with the help of Republicans and Democrats on that committee to actually make sure that it keeps flying at least for the next fiscal year.

Ted Simons: Last point on this strictly from political viewpoint, can Barber do anything against a former A-10 pilot to win that particular part of the debate?

Jim Nintzel: Well, he has been very successful in pulling together members of the community to say hey, Ron Barber is doing a great job fighting for this jet. He's got the Chamber of Commerce behind him on that, a group called the DM-50 that works to help DM out in the community. They are saying Ron Barber has been there to help out. So I think he's got folks behind him on that one.

Ted Simons: I notice he voted for the Benghazi probe?

Jim Nintzel: Yeah. That's another very interesting thing. One of a handful of democrats in Congress who actually went with the Republicans to vote on that, and that’s not unusual Ron Barber has voted alongside Republicans on a number of the Obamacare votes, on a number of other things, border issues, for example, and I think that's part of his ability – well his interest in portraying himself as more of a moderate democrat, because this is a district that is really split right down the middle. One-third democrat, one-third Republican, one-third independent. So he's forged a trail that has leaned pretty close to the center, and we'll see whether that keeps him in office next year.

Ted Simons: And one last issue that they're fussing and fighting over down there as far as pay for women. What women earn. What's that all about?

Jim Nintzel: Well this was something that came up, he wrote an op Ed in favor of the fair pay act, which would help ensure that women are paid the same as men in the workplace. Eliminate some of the legal barriers to filing lawsuits and discrimination cases basically. And immediately the national Republican congressional committee came out and said, he's not actually following the rules that he laid down, and crunched some numbers in his office, he came back and said, my three top highest paid people here are women, they're in key positions, we pay them better, he says the RNC fiddled with the numbers, so they're going back and forth on these numbers. But it's clear he has one of the most female friendly offices, more women than men working there, and higher ranks.

Ted Simons: It also seems clear at least from a distance that's RNC is paying very close attention to this race. They must think McSally has a pretty good shot.

Jim Nintzel: They do, they just took her up to something called young gun status, they raised her to the top of that, it makes it easier for them to assist her without making it look like they're playing favorites, by saying that she’s achieved certain benchmarks. And she’s one of the top fund-raisers in the country. She's outraised Barber in the last three reporting cycles. She’s got a lot of money, he’s got a lot of money, they are both going to have a lot of money and it’s actually going to be dwarfed by the amount of outside money that’s going to come pouring in. So we’re looking at an avalanche of campaign ads, mailers, phone calls and all the rest down there in southern Arizona.

Ted Simons: We are also looking at a big congressional district in CD-1, stretches all the way to southern Arizona. How big a race is that down there and how is that shaping up? I know Andy Tobin got Mitt Romney to support him. Is that play in that district down there?

Jim Nintzel: I think it plays more in other parts of the district, but it plays across the district. This is a large district, it includes southern Arizona but also eastern rural Arizona and Flagstaff, Native American reservations, Grand Canyon, just an enormous amount of real estate. So a lot of different interest groups in there. Andy Tobin, the speaker of the Arizona house is one of the Republicans in the district, there are two others running in there, state rep Adam Kwasman and a newcomer, this rancher named Gary Kiehne is an interesting character who's got some very colorful language on the stump and he's a rodeo cowboy, has photos of himself roping calves I think that will play well in the rural areas of that district. At least in the Republican primary.

Ted Simons: Real quickly, sounded like Tobin, some of his fund-raising material mentioned Benghazi, this was after someone of national prominence in the Republican Party said don't do that, this is not the time or place for that kind of issue to be used in fund-raising. Will that play in that district at all do you think?

Jim Nintzel: Gary Kiehne, the rancher, is making an issue of it. He's saying that Andy Tobin should not be raising money in this fashion. You shouldn't raise money off the backs of murdered Americans. Tobin has doubled down and is continuing to do it and he says there's nothing wrong with it.

Ted Simons: That’s an interesting equation, because if you're if the Republican side you got to get out of that primary, but it sounds like another district that could swing either way. Obviously he's being represented by a democrat right now.

Jim Nintzel: Right, Ann Kirkpatrick represents that and she has a lot of money, and all three of these candidates, Republican candidates are having trouble raising money right now. They have not been able to match up with what Kirkpatrick has raised and they have a tough primary fight ahead of them, all three of them.

Ted Simons: We’ll keep an eye on that. The south side Presbyterian Church in Tucson was known at one time for basically starting the sanctuary movement with Central American war refugees. It sounds like they're kind of back at it now with the Mexican national family. Talk to us about that.

Jim Nintzel: Yeah very similar situation. In the 1980’s they did as you said, pushed the sanctuary movement where they were assisting folks fleeing political persecution in central America. This is a different situation this, is somebody who has been in America for about 14 years now, his name is Daniel Ruiz and he's been working here as a construction worker, he stayed out of trouble with the law, he's married to someone else who is not in the country legally, and they have a young child here. And he got pulled over, turned over to border patrol, they cited him for being in the country illegally, said he had a certain amount of time to leave the country, that time is now up, and he has moved into the church with his family, in an attempt to try to stop this from happening. He has legal representation, they're trying to get the INS to reverse that decision.

Ted Simons: Compare the reaction in Tucson to what happened in the early 80’s, and this particular situation.

Jim Nintzel: Well, I think in the early 80’s there was a great deal of sympathy in terms of these folks who were really in danger of losing their lives, should they be sent back to their home countries. This situation is a little bit different, but I think it also reflects the frustrations that people have with the failure to actually get any kind of comprehensive immigration reform accomplished. Congress has the U.S. senate did pass a bill that provided a path to legalization for people who are now in the country last year, this year, last year. And it has sat in Congress not going anywhere, and may not go anywhere though there's talk they're going to try to resurrect it.

Ted Simons: We've got to wonder how it's going to be resolved. He’s got a family, he’s got a 13-year-old son born in the United States, United States citizen, how is this going to be resolved?

Jim Nintzel: That's a very good question, and the attorneys are hoping that INS will reverse their decision and just say you're not on the list of people we're going to prosecute. But I don't know they'll step back having already issued that order. Most of the time when they're looking to deport people, they're generally people who have some kind of criminal records, or some other problem. But this is a very tricky area of the law.

Ted Simons: Well Jim, sounds like things are a little happening down there. We'll look forward to speaking with you again next month on Southern Exposure. Good to see you again.

Jim Nintzel: Always a pleasure to be here, Ted.

Historic Medical Donation

  |   Video
  • The St. Joseph’s Foundation has been given a $19 million donation by Arizona philanthropists John and Doris Norton to establish the John and Doris Norton Thoracic Institute. The donation will help create centers for lung, heart and esophageal medicine at Dignity Health’s St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center. Dr. Ross Bremner, director of the lung transplant program at St. Joseph’s, will discuss this donation and what it means for healthcare in Arizona.
  • Dr. Ross Bremner - Director, Lung Transplant Program at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center
Category: Medical/Health   |   Keywords: medical, health, donation, historic, hospital, arizona, healthcare,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: St. Joseph hospital today announced its largest ever donation, a $19 million gift that will be used to develop a new thoracic institute at the hospital's Phoenix campus. Here now is Dr. Ross Bremner Director of the John and Doris Norton Thoracic Institute. It's good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Ross Bremner: Thank you Ted, thank you.

Ted Simons: I guess the new name says it all. The National Night Out, $19 million from the Norton family.

Ross Bremner: Incredibly generous isn’t it?

Ted Simons: Yeah. And talk about the family now, and then we'll talk about the institute.

Ross Bremner: Well, the family actually being in Arizona for at least three generations, and they have really made a big difference in Arizona. They were part of the development of the agriculture, part of the development of the saltwater project, and John Norton actually was a deputy secretary of agriculture to the Reagan administration, being a big farmer himself. The family have been devoted to St. Joseph for a long time, the family saved John's life at the age of seven with an emergency operation. And he was born there all of his kids were born there, and they have been long-term benefactors of the hospital, and really delightful people.

Ted Simons: Yeah. And this is quite the gift. This is for a thoracic Institute. What is thoracic medicine?

Ross Bremner: So I’m a thoracic surgeon, and thoracic diseases really are all the diseases that occur in your chest. So this is the heart, lungs, and the esophagus primarily. When I came out here about eight years ago, we came to actually start the thoracic program at St. Joseph's hospital, and it's grown very rapidly, and I've been able to recruit some incredible physicians and allied staff to help us develop the programs. And about seven years ago we started the valley's first lung transplant program. And that as well has grown very rapidly, last year we were one of the largest lung transplant programs in the country. This is something the Nortons became interested in, and they realized it had potential of developing into something with national recognition, and we believe that we can become sort of the new Barrow of St. joe's in terms of developing the thoracic diseases.

Ted Simons: Indeed, what Barrow is to neurological conditions, this would be -- And this would make a difference. Talk to us about how much of a difference and specifically what the money would be spent on.

Ross Bremner: So we've obviously $19 million is a significant amount of money, and we want to use to it fulfill all the dreams of what we want to do with the thoracic program. Really our goal is to be one of the nation's top thoracic disease programs, and one of the areas that we want to develop is really our research programs. And our research really currently is in three major areas. That of transplant rejection and I'll talk a little bit about that, the big problem with any transplanted organ is with time the body will try to reject them, and those organs slowly lose their function. And lungs, that's a little bit more of a problem than it is, for example, with kidneys or heart. So we're trying to work on ways we can preserve the organ early, before it gets transplanted, and we've got some new trials that are coming up with that that the gift is going to allow to us participate in. And we also are working on ways to slowly, you know, interfere with the host's immune system so that they will accept those organs for a longer period of time.

Ross Bremner: Then the other area, an area that's passionate to my own practice is in the thoracic cancers, and that's esophageal and lung cancers. They're both devastating diseases. Both with overall survival rates that are very poor. And the reason is that most of the time we discover these diseases on the late stage. Esophageal cancer is the most rapidly increasing cancer in the United States at the moment.

Ted Simons: Do we know why?

Ross Bremner: Well it's very closely related to reflux or heartburn, which also is closely related to the obesity epidemic that we have. But there are probably a number of factors involved. But we discover these cancers late when it's very difficult to cure patients. So our research programs are concentrating on early detection and prevention. So screening programs, lung cancer screening programs as well as esophageal screening programs, both with serum blood tests as well as other means of detecting cancers early, when it's easier to cure them.

Ted Simons: Will there be as much emphasis on the clinical as the research? How would that dynamic work?

Ross Bremner: This gift is going to be divided up, a good portion is going to be to develop our research and to continue the partnerships that we have with the University of Arizona, ASU, and the institute. We believe that this gift will help us develop the biomedical infrastructure that Phoenix really needs, and is starting to develop. But apart from the research, we belief it will take our clinical program to the next level. And another portion of the gift is going to be towards our telemedicine program, where we want to be able to reach all Arizonans. It's a little frustrating for us when we have patients that have to travel, four or six hours before they can even get a consultation with us. And we'd like that to be a lot easier for the patients, and we'd like to be able to bring state of the art care to patients across all of Arizona.

Ted Simons: And again, the idea, you mentioned Barrows, which is so well respected for neurological concerns, Cleveland clinic, other areas are known for thoracic medicine. This is possible, it is possible for St. Joseph's to get to that level. Correct?

Ross Bremner: This gift is certainly going to parachute us, shoot us on the way in that direction. I often refer to our program as the Cleveland clinic of the southwest.

Ted Simons: Wow. All right.

Ross Bremner: That's where we're headed.

Ted Simons: So if you're headed that direction when can we expect you to get there? What is the timetable for all this?

Ross Bremner: Well you know, if you let me go we can get going. Obviously this gift is going to be transformative. We want this actually to be the seed for a much larger, long-term project. The Barrow has just celebrated its 50th anniversary. We start our program only eight years ago. I think that as one of the largest lung transplant programs already, give us five or 10 years and I think we'll be there.

Ted Simons: Alright

Ross Bremner: I think this gift is going to be transformative for us.

Ted Simons: And you'll be there on that Phoenix Campus? Will there be more buildings do you think on the Phoenix campus?

Ross Bremner: You know, absolutely.

Ted Simons: Okay, well we'll keep an eye on that. If not then we will know that something is really going on. Hey, great work. Thank you so much for the great work you do and thank you for appearing, and congratulations on what looks to be a very bright future.

Ross Bremner: Thank you very much. And thanks to the family.

Ted Simons: Thank you.