LRA Spotlight: Gary Fredericks & Fluidic Microcontrols, N-Ovation
By MICHAEL MILLER | For The Prairie Advocate News
Gary Fredericks is doing something very interesting and possibly revolutionary in Buildings 10, 13 and 14 at the LRA/Savanna Army Depot, and he’s doing it with little or no publicity, not a great deal of manpower, some potentially powerful funding, a lot of hope and years of researching and working on his dreams.
Fredericks owns and operates Fluidic Microcontrols, Incorporated and N-Ovation, a fertilizer research company, and his geniality and easygoing nature do not diminish his passion and dedication to his far reaching and ambitious goals.
Fredericks explains that he currently has two businesses operating at the LRA that are “very close” to having patents, and that they are potentially “billion dollar businesses.” These, and those of the other property owners, are ventures that the community should support and be proud of, he adds.
His own pride is evident when he explains the potential impact of his own businesses, having received two Small Business Innovative Research Grants, a very rare honor, which only about one in five hundred applicants receive.
Detailing the nuts and bolts of his research, Fredericks says that his student engineer is currently working on a method to develop a method of making electricity from cow manure using a bearing Fred has been developing for 15 years. He has also won a contract from the USDA to pursue a system using kitchen microwave components, operating them as you would a military radar system using that energy to break down molecules in the air to create nitrates.
Richard Mattas, the president of his fertilizer business (a former Argonne physicist) is now doing analysis of this cold plasma system, about to ask EPA for another million dollars plus to finish this. “I’ll hold up the research in this building to anything being doing at the U of I,” Fredericks says.
Fredericks, whose career at one time included heading up the “biggest commercial research group in the world,” grew up in a farm about 3 miles east of the depot and went to Savanna High school 1964. He’s worked for military and defense research for most of his life. His “fluidic microcontrols” venture makes air powered circuitry, with no moving parts and with the help of one full time and three to four subcontracted employees, is currently trying to develop a different bearing technology for use in turbines using fluidic power.
His dream, he says, is “to take this research and create jobs for this community, which is in desperate need of them.” He sold his business in Rockford in 2003, moved to his farm, formed his fertilizer company in 2009, and says he “could retire permanently but wants to finish his fluidic project off, which he calls his “coup de grace.” His current contract with the USDA is to “put a turbine on (his new) bearings, run it on steam, power it from methane from cows and basically use it to heat and power a farm.”
His fertilizer business has customers in Africa, and the project’s initial goal is to build a small module for an organic farm for a village in Africa,. Fredericks says this system “can easily be powered by a 10 kilowatt windmill, but has a much lower probability for success and is ‘hugely challenging’.”
To this end, Fredericks has secured a support letter from AO Smith (a manufacturer of both residential and commercial water heaters and boilers and the largest manufacturer and marketer of water heaters in North America. It also supplies water treatment products in the Asian market, courtesy of wikipedia).
Fredericks says that “alternative energy” is a common theme that he and several other property owners at the Depot seem to have coalesced around, and that his original idea was to create a kind of “high energy park” at the Depot. In his presentation to the Carroll County Board, which asked for more time before selling the water/sewer systems, Fredericks said that “ecology to technology” is the theme that he stressed. He says the potential for both of his businesses is truly “huge,” possibly resulting in thousands of jobs should everything fall into place.
Fredericks has opposed the sale of the water/sewer systems to Riverport Railroad (see 1/16/13 LRA Spotlight), pressing the County to allow more time for businesses to grow at the LRA. To this end, he gave a slideshow presentation to the County at a recent County Board meeting. He says he and other owners would like to allow another 3 to 5 years to see what develops. While he concedes that at this point, the agreement to purchase the systems is a “done deal,” he thinks that there are a lot of interesting and vital small businesses at the Depot who deserve community support. “If this were truly a community incubator center, what community incubators do is make sure small businesses don’t have to worry about things like infrastructure,” Fredericks explains.
Fredericks says he has no personal bone to pick with Riverport regarding the sale. In fact, he says he “congratulates Riverport for stepping up and offering the County an option.” “Riverport,” he says, “has shown great vision in terms of the transportation businesses, but by definition that doesn’t create a lot of jobs.” He laments the lack of development of the area, and says that, absent a new big user, the water/sewer system probably cannot be supported.
The future of Fredericks’ businesses may not be entirely certain, but he may just need a bit of luck and some more time to produce some amazing results.