Sometimes ground-breaking ideas come from simple, everyday things.
One day, a farm boy from Island, Kentucky, named Kevin Humphrey, noticed a cloud of corn dust particles hovering over a grain bin as it was unloading. That image is what sparked an idea that he later applied to a solution for food safety sampling.
At a press conference this afternoon under sunny skies and scattered clouds, that same farm boy from Island announced that his food safety solutions company, Hollison, will be investing $1.2 million dollars in an expansion that will create 34 new jobs when they lease a 30,000 square-foot manufacturing facility.
Economic Development President Madison Silvert called Hollison “the reason the Emerging Venture Center exists.”
County Judge Executive Al Mattingly called Hollison “the first result of what we had envisioned” when the Centre for Business and Research was developed years ago. Hollison was the first business housed in the Centre for Business and Research.
From the podium at the announcement, Humphrey gave thanks to his dad for teaching him how to put in a good day’s work, his mother for encouraging him to pay attention and learn, his brother for inspiring him with his wit and knowledge, his many mentors and business advisers over the years, and Madison Silvert for pointing him toward the resources it took to help the vision for Hollison evolve into the business it has become.
“With this kind of environment – this incredible facility (Centre for Business and Research), the EDC, Emerging Ventures, Daviess County Fiscal Court, and the KY Cabinet for Economic Development – all these things begin to become possible so that a thought becomes an idea, an idea becomes a dream, and a dream becomes possible, right here in Owensboro and Daviess County,” Humphrey said at the press conference.
So what does Hollison actually do?
Put simply: They invented a process that is the first sampling system in the world which allows food manufacturers to get a thoroughly representative sample when testing for contamination in dry food products.
What that means is major manufacturers who produce any kind of grain or dry food product can use Hollison’s process to test for Salmonella and other contaminates. Soon large companies like cereal and pet food manufacturers could be using their technology.
Vice President Bo Barron compared the process to vacuuming air from a product stream. “We created a way to sample products without consuming the product. Our process allows us to continually sample all of the product without consuming any of it by sucking the air around the product samples as they jostle around, especially when they’re falling. If there’s contamination, it aerosolizes, and we catch it when we suck the air out. That’s how we’re able to sample 100% of the product because we sample the product particles in the air.”
Which goes back to that moment of inspiration at the grain bin.
Barron used the analogy of a box of cereal to demonstrate the benefit of that process. The standard process to test for contamination is to sample a small portion of said box of cereal. The problem with that is that there could be traces of Salmonella in the bottom or top or middle of that box that was not tested in the sample.
In actuality, Hollison doesn’t test anything. “What we do is solve the sample problem. We give these companies the ability to test anything so that their samples can mean something,” Barron explained.
Because of Hollison’s technology, food manufacturers now have a much more thorough way to detect biological, viral and chemical contamination before the products are shipped. And that technology was invented right here in Owensboro.