Smart bark technology funded for plant care

SEATTLE – Washington Technology Center has awarded $99,778 in Research and Technology Development funding based on a proposal from Washington State University in collaboration with Plant Care Technologies Corporation.

Plant Care Technologies Corporation, a start-up nursery bioproducts company located in Pullman, is partnered with the Wood Materials and Engineering Laboratory at Washington State University to study the commercial feasibility of using heat-treated waste-wood products as an alternative to traditional plant-growing media.

WSU will receive $99,778 in Phase I Research and Technology Development funding from Washington Technology Center and $19,956 from Plant Care Technologies Corporation for the project titled “Smart Bark Technology, a value-added opportunity for bark as a specialty plant care product.”

Washington’s sawmill industry produces 1.3 million tons of bark residues annually. Some of this forest industry byproduct is either converted to a lesser-value material or used as fuel to produce steam or heat. Most is discarded as waste, creating both disposal costs and potential environmental issues. 

In this Phase I project, WSU’s Assistant Professor Vikram Yadama and Associate Professor Rita Hummel plan to help Plant Care Technologies Corporation determine the feasibility of turning this bark waste material into a nutrient-supplying horticultural growing media. The team plans to conduct a thorough analysis of the effects of thermal treatment on bark’s absorption, retention and controlled release of nutrients, herbicides and pesticides. This project is a first step in turning wood waste into a valuable commercial product for the plant materials and horticultural industries. 

Washington Technology Center competitively awards around $1 million in state funding annually as part of the Research and Technology Development program. State funding enables collaboration between companies and non-profit research institutions on technology projects that show strong potential for commercializing products and creating jobs. Since 1996, the state has funded 324 Research and Technology Development projects.

“This award from the Washington Technology Center underscores the pride we have in WSU and its well-earned reputation for innovative research” said state Rep. Joe Schmick (R-Colfax), whose legislative district includes WSU’s Pullman campus. “The concepts and discoveries emerging from the partnership between the Wood Materials and Engineering Lab and Plant Care Technologies have great potential for economic development and environmental benefit.”   
In July 2008, Washington Technology Center awarded a total of $512,269 for projects involving seven companies: CHROMiX, of Seattle; EKOS Corporation, of Bothell; Healionics Corporation, of Redmond; Hummingbird Scientific, of Lacey; Impulse Accelerated Technologies, Inc., of Kirkland; Northstar Neuroscience, Inc., of Seattle; and Plant Care Technologies Corporation, of Pullman. Winning proposals described breakthrough research in computer systems and microelectronics, forest products, advanced materials and manufacturing, and biotechnology and biomedical devices.
Applications for the next round of funding are due October 23, 2008. More information about the Research and Technology Development grants program is available online at


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