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Chicken Feed, Probiotics and Staying Ahead of the Agri-Tech Curve


After getting his PhD in food microbiology from Iowa State, Tom Rehberger took a research-oriented faculty position in Oklahoma State’s animal science department. There he met critical collaborators with whom he discovered that introducing certain friendly bacteria into cows’ stomachs kept them from getting a potentially fatal form of nitrate toxicity, known as chocolate blood syndrome.

That discovery set Tom on a commercial path and gave him Milwaukee connections because Phar-More Biochemical, the company that helped fund that first startup, was based here.

Fast forward to this year and you get to Tom’s most recent commercial success: The sale of AgroBiosciences to Church and Dwight, the maker of Arm & Hammer baking soda, for $105 million - if certain milestones are met.

Here are some tips Tom has for other entrepreneurs:

  • Focus on getting income. It’s the best way for a startup to stretch its money.
  • Try to identify trends and understand how you can leverage your core competencies to take advantage of them.
  • Don’t look for perfection, look to get into market. You will get a bloody nose but in the process you’ll learn to make your product better.
  • Never take a year off because you will find too many things to do and your hobby becomes work. (During the year between leaving Danisco and starting AgroBiosciences, Tom started an organic farm in Door County.)