Wisconsin Roundup: Wooden Microchip, Zendesk, Rockwell, FaB, & More

Here’s a quick recap of some recent headlines in Wisconsin’s innovation and technology community:

FaB Wisconsin, the Milwaukee-based food and beverage industry group with 135 member companies, announced a program intended to help small Wisconsin food and beverage companies boost their businesses. The one-year finance accelerator will include a $10,000 grant, access to mentors and a finance coach, and a chance to pitch to investors. The program received a $115,000 grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.

FaB also plans to open multiple physical spaces in Milwaukee to support food and beverage companies, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Those projects could include a center that would house startups, satellite offices of larger companies, and support services; a small food processing facility and shared product development and testing labs that would be provided by Milwaukee Area Technical College; and a business park for food and beverage companies. The efforts mirror facilities and programs launched by similar Milwaukee industry support groups, The Water Council and the Mid-West Energy Research Consortium.

—Zendesk has nearly doubled its staff in Madison, growing from 50 to 90 employees since opening a larger office there last fall. The San Francisco-based provider of customer service software has made that office its headquarters for worldwide customer service, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

Zendesk is also delivering on promises—in dramatic fashion—to contribute to the Madison community. Last week, seven homing pigeons delivered news of Zendesk philanthropic gifts totaling $23,000 to the Madison Children’s Museum and several other local groups. The company will give $100,000 this year to Madison nonprofits, the State Journal reported.

—Madison-based Isomark intends to test its “Canary” breath analyzer—initially designed to provide early indication of potentially deadly infections in patients—for another potential use: predicting if a person is about to gain weight. Isomark CEO Joe Kremer told the State Journal that the device can analyze carbon isotopes in a person’s breath to identify shifts in the body’s metabolism. The company is partnering with the Mayo Clinic to design a clinical study of patients being fed through tubes, the newspaper reported.

—Milwaukee-based Rockwell Automation is among the companies helping manufacturers take advantage of the growing Internet of Things movement. The Journal Sentinel profiled Rockwell’s FactoryTalk VantagePoint mobile application, released several months ago, that helps factory managers monitor and troubleshoot equipment operations from their smartphones and tablets.

—Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Madison-based U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Products Laboratory have developed a biodegradable computer chip made mostly out of wood.

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