Absorbent Technologies creates Zeba, an agricultural superabsorbent that absorbs and releases water in soil
SUPER SUCKERS The small white granules in this soil can increase crop yields, sometimes 10 percent or more. Zeba is sold on its own and licensed to companies like Scotts Miracle-Gro, which uses it as a coating in grass seed.
For a farmer, water can be frustratingly ephemeral; even when rain arrives, the moisture is often lost to runoff or evaporation. Milan Savich, founder and CEO of Absorbent Technologies in Beaverton, Oregon, wants to make water more reliable. In 2004, his company released Zeba, a white granular substance known as a superabsorbent. Zeba absorbs up to 500 times its weight in water, then releases the moisture slowly when plants need it. Most superabsorbents are petroleum-based, but Zeba is cornstarch-based, so it's biodegradable. Now, Savich wants to use the technology to make products as varied as diapers and fire-suppression fluids. Last December, the company launched a new brand, Reon, aimed at nonagricultural markets. Its first products -- including one that can help clean up oil spills on land -- are on the market, and Savich expects $500,000 in sales from Reon by the end of this year.
NICOLE MARIE RICHARDSON is the executive editor for special projects at Inc.com. She manages the website's largest projects, including the Inc. 5000, an annual list of the fastest-growing, privately-held companies in America. @nicole_marie79