From the first day it opened shop in 2005, McFarland-based Bioionix has been a valuable source when it comes to food safety and quality. The company specializes in killing bacteria and other harmful food pathogens such as salmonella, listeria, E. coli, yeast and mold. The company’s customer base includes four continents including North America, Africa, South America and Europe.
John Van Arsdale, director of sales and marketing, said it made sense to put the company’s global headquarters in McFarland near the University of Wisconsin.
“I would say it’s definitely one of the top five biotech areas in the United States,” he said. “And we are in the brat and cheese capital, ideal for our business. It is just a really good fit.”
Van Arsdale is a Michigan native who received his degree in environmental science from Western Michigan University. He has been employed in the food safety biotech business since 1997 with companies that work to reduce contamination risks and produce safe, wholesome food. He has been in his current position since 2018.
The company chairman and CEO, Pete Marsnik, has a chemical engineering degree from the University of Minnesota and earned an MBA from University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. He has worked in water quality since 2000.
Bioionix sells an electro-chemical reactor that produces super-oxidants from salt that originates in brine. These super-oxidants are used to remove dangerous pathogens from meat, cheese and seafood and help sanitize the food.
“Imagine a huge bathtub with cheese floating in brine,” Van Arsdale said. “The brine is taken out of the bathtub, run through our system, which cleans it, disinfects it, and put a little bit of residual super-oxidants into it and then put it back into the tub.”
Van Arsdale said the electro-chemical reactor is much safer than methods used by Bioionix’s competitors, which use chemicals such as parasitic acid (PAA) that may be harmful to employees.
“If you get it PAA on your skin, it can cause burns, scaring and cause harmful fumes,” Van Arsdale said.
The system is also friendly to the environment and uses less electricity than other food processing methods such as pasteurization, which is very energy intensive.
“Often companies on a regular basis will dump the brine and start from fresh.” Van Arsdale said. “With our system, you can continue to reuse and recycle the brine through our system. There is a significant amount of water and salt savings. By dumping salt, you are introducing a lot of chlorides into the environment. By recycling the brine, you can essentially eliminate wasting of valuable resources and money.”
Van Arsdale said the processing system is about the size of a refrigerator and may be installed elevated on a wall to save space in food producing plants. Each unit also contains its own virtual private network (VPN) that allows Bioionix to monitor its performance on the internet.
Bioionix’s clients include Kraft/Oscar Mayer, Costco and numerous international companies manufacturing all types of ready-to-eat meats, cheeses and seafood. The company has also been a leader in the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), guidelines signed into law in 2011 that focus on prevention of foodborne illnesses instead of responding to them after they happen.
Bioionix has also installed systems in Chile to service the booming aquaculture industry. They have received government approval to destroy red tide, which is becoming an issue worldwide with the warming of seawater temperatures.
Van Arsdale said Bioionix has enjoyed its time in McFarland and the location has offered many conveniences.
“It’s a very business friendly environment. The location in central Wisconsin has been ideal for us as the closeness to the Beltline has assisted in shipping and receiving of products,” he said. “It’s been a very good experience.”