News-Review: RHS grad helps develop winning business concept
Author: Craig Reed
Posted: September 16, 2013

Read the original story on the News-Review website here

There was no sophomore jinx for the freshmen members of a team that developed a winning project at Portland State University one year ago.

John Talik of Roseburg is a member of Mobius Microfarms, a PSU team that on Friday shared first-place honors in the inaugural PSU-Wells Fargo Cleantech Challenge.

The winning project is a self-sufficient aquaponic system that is able to grow micro greens and herbs with the help of fish in a closed loop system. Members of the team, now PSU sophomores majoring in mechanical engineering, are Talik, Matthew Stewart and Taylor Rice, and Anne Phillip, a recent PSU graduate with a biology degree.

The team will receive $12,500 to help further advance their project, which is targeting the restaurant industry.

“I was ecstatic,” Talik said of Mobius being a winner in the competition that started with 21 proposed projects from students and faculty and then was narrowed to six who made final presentations. “All the teams were high caliber. It’s validation for us, that we can really do this."

The six finalists were given $5,000 each and 90 days to develop a prototype and a sales pitch.

“It’s a non-conventional way of farming,” he said of the concept. “Growing organic, high-value, quick-turnaround greens directly in the restaurant from converted fish waste that provides nutrients and fertilizes the produce. The micro greens are flavorful, they grow quickly and can be used as garnish or in salads.”

Talik said two Portland restaurants have already committed to having Mobius aquaponics systems set up in their businesses.

Quinn Read, the project manager for the Cleantech Challenge, said the Mobius system looks like a miniature farm in a home entertainment center.

“It’s aesthetically pleasing, it’s a fully functional system,” Read said. “It was a very impressive prototype. The team was incredibly charismatic and you could hear how much the students believe in it. It’s a well-deserved award for John and the Mobius Microfarms team.”

Talik is a 2012 Roseburg High School graduate. He said the education and experiences he got in the school’s drafting program and from teacher Ron McGuire were key in helping him be a productive member of the Mobius team. While a RHS student, Talik entered some Skills USA drafting competitions and earned some top-five placings. He also won a competition held at Linn-Benton Community College in Albany.

“I was able to develop critical problem solving and leadership skills because of Mr. McGuire’s class, which really helped me excel in and achieve the kind of things I was able to do in my (PSU) freshman year,” he said. “He gave me tons of projects and our class competed in drafting/design competitions throughout the state. I would not be here without the guidance and lessons I learned there.”

Talik also competed in cross country for four years and in track and field for three years at Roseburg. He’s now a member of the PSU cross country team. He credited PSU coach Jonathan Marcus with helping him stay focused on school and running.

“I study a lot, I run a lot and now this,” Talik said with a chuckle. “I’m a busy kid, but I love it.”

He said the Mobius team will now work on acquiring funding and placing aquaponics systems in additional restaurants and in commercial and house settings.