The Chicken Came First
BioSafe Systems is headquartered in East Hartford, Connecticut, but the sustainable ideology that became the foundation for the company was laid before any brick-and-mortar structure stood. The origin story truly began two generations before CEO Lauren Larose Crane when her grandfather’s research led to a peroxyacetic acid-based chemistry used for disease prevention in 1965 on chicken farms. Rene Larose worked for a poultry chicken breeder company called Arbor Acres in Glastonbury, Connecticut, that was known for producing quality chickens.
Chickens are prone to sickness and can contract infections through contact with other animals, cross-contamination, or contact with germs in the air, soil, bacteria, or parasites. To keep the birds and hatcheries disease-free, facilities, like Arbor Acres, would fumigate with formaldehyde in rotation when eggs were brought in, during hatching, and when chicks moved out. During this chicken traffic, the environment was consistently exposed to the strong atomized chemical, as were the vulnerable animals. And while some chickens were lost, overall, the math worked out and the chickens maintained their high value and pedigree.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, another hatchery is forced to close because in 1987, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classified formaldehyde as a probable human carcinogen under unusually high or prolonged exposure. The chemical is highly dangerous to humans at concentrations above 0.1 ppm and can irritate eyes, or throat, cause headaches at high levels and symptoms worsen after more time and at higher strengths.
The hatchery reached out to Rene Larose for alternative chemistry because of his position at Arbor Acres managing poultry health and his degree in microbiology. Originally, he worked to develop vaccines for chickens and other disease prevention strategies. Rene’s microbiology background combined with the research of European associates developed Rene’s idea of applying peroxyacetic acid (PAA) to clean the bird’s environment. Chlorine’s toxicity made it a noncontender because the harsh chemistry permeated the egg’s cuticle and damaged the bird. Formaldehyde offered convenience by being dispersed in gas form that reached every nook and cranny of a bird house, but its toxicity put workers at risk. While PAA has strong disinfection power, it wasn’t available as a gas application like formaldehyde. Rene linked up with an engineer who worked in New Jersey selling fogging machines to atomize PAA to disinfect the poultry houses and keep employees protected. When PAA finally mated with a compatible machine that effectively fogged the chemistry, immediate success followed. Atomizing PAA effectively prevented disease without harming workers, vulnerable chicks, eggshells, or the bottom line, decreasing the loss to 0.5%.
The Living Lab
Rene Larose wasn’t the only member of the family to engage in agribusiness. In the 1970s, his brother-in-law John bought and maintained a greenhouse in South Windsor, Connecticut, applying his experience in microbiology to his interest in horticulture. After Rene retired from Arbor Acres, he joined his brother in the retail greenhouse and applied his PAA knowledge to help.
During the same time, BioSafe Systems’ founder, Rob Larose was working for a company in New Jersey that specialized in land remediation. He had taken many courses on best management practices for expunging and removing dangerous and toxic chemicals from soil. When he visited his father and uncle at the greenhouse, he saw Uncle John treating a thrip infestation by spraying a highly toxic and dangerous nerve gas. All the floors of the greenhouse were covered in gravel for drainage, and underneath the gravel was soil. Pesticides bind to soil, build up over time, and stay there. Rob took a soil sample from the greenhouse and found it contaminated with arsenic, mercury, and other carcinogenic pathogens that originated from the toxic gas draining through the gravel to the soil. After spending so much time cleaning up construction sites plagued with toxic chemicals and seeing the contaminated soil at his uncle’s greenhouse Rob thought, “It doesn’t make sense to me that we have to keep cleaning up places where chemicals were used to clean up something else.”
A tenant of the BioSafe Systems business philosophy is operating from the foundation based on family values. High moral standards and discipline are pillars that uphold the model Rob Larose set for the company, and from the beginning he has strived to reinforce those as non-negotiable to our structural integrity. Guiding principles that inform how you and your family make decisions, networking business relationships, and like heirlooms and value systems they are passed on through generations, and on Meadow Street they were passed on from Rob Larose to all the employees who work here.
Rene Larose was a microbiologist who identified PAA as a chemistry that could disinfect chicken houses as successfully as chlorine and could be atomized for applications as efficiently as formaldehyde. His brother, Uncle John, a horticulture enthusiast with a degree in microbiology, owned the greenhouse that supplied Rob’s first soil test. Rob Larose, experienced in land remediation with a degree in marketing and business management put these pieces together, saw an opportunity, and got to work figuring out how to share this sustainable, non-toxic chemistry with the marketplace that clearly needed an alternative. He quickly learned that they couldn’t commercialize chemical formulations without registration. Father and son, Rene and Rob, went to Washington to meet with the Environmental Protection Agency to register their new chemistry for ornamentals disinfection and a plan to add agriculture and food crops as the business expanded. The first product was registered as hydrogen dioxide because the EPA did not recognize peroxyacetic acid as an active ingredient. We chose hydrogen dioxide instead of peroxide because we wanted to differentiate ourselves from the “brown bottle” active.
The first tradename registered with PAA (though not listed in the active ingredients) was called ZeroTolerance and the first batch was manufactured in 1996. Rob’s sales tactic was literally a grassroots effort. The growers who work in greenhouse environments are known for their innovative approach and eagerness to try novel chemistry. Rob Larose went door-to-door with what is now known as ZeroTol® and asked growers, “Show me your worst plant.” His strategy was to encase two clippings from the plant in two Petri dishes, one treated with our chemistry, and one left untreated. Then, after two days, he returned to the greenhouse to review the comparison’s results. When a product, on its first run off the line, can prove itself in an on-the-spot trial, confidence, trust, and business all coalesce.
The Last Piece of the Puzzle
The BioSafe Systems company was born of collaboration between an uncle with a greenhouse, a father who was a microbiologist, a cousin with a horticulture background, and an ambitious son with a marketing degree and a mind for business. Through the combined efforts and skillsets of the Larose family, BioSafe Systems was born into existence.
Our PAA chemistry was first registered as hydrogen dioxide because the EPA did not recognize PAA as an active ingredient, but because hydrogen peroxide is such a common product registering it under that generic grocery-store name wouldn’t make it a marketable splash. So, hydrogen dioxide offered a firm distinction from the common “brown bottle” product, without being misleading or inaccurate as a name for disinfection chemistry. Since the first PAA product registration, BioSafe Systems has been manufacturing multiple products using proprietary chemistry for the protection of crops, water, animals, and people. To this day, the company maintains this connectivity with the Larose family with Rob’s daughter as President and CEO, his brother working with the engineering team, and his sons holding positions in research and development and sales.
BioSafe Systems is often linked with terms like straight-forward, honest, adaptability, and was named one of the top companies in Connecticut to incorporate family values into professional goals.
Working at a family-owned business is motivating when everyone is brought into the fold because of a shared regard for the company mission. These principles propel the character of a company and anchor our purpose in an ever-changing world.