MON AM News: Researchers using advanced imaging to detect blight in potatoes; Milwaukee companies launch tech employment effort

— Researchers in the WARF Accelerator program are using advanced imaging technology to detect late blight in potatoes, which famously led to the Irish potato famine in the mid-nineteenth century. 

In a recent interview, program manager Greg Keenan highlighted some of the top innovations getting investment support from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. Keenan has more than 20 years of industry experience with startups and other companies, and now works to identify opportunities for commercialization among UW-Madison research projects. 

“We have over 100 technologies in the accelerator program alone where we’ve made investments to try to commercialize the technologies,” he said. 

He noted that more than 1 billion people across the world eat potatoes, and late blight still has a global impact. 

Potato growers in the state produced 28 million hundredweight of potatoes in 2016, making Wisconsin the third-largest potato producing state in the country after Idaho and Washington. Potato farming is clustered in the central part of the state, according to DATCP. 

“We have a professor who’s invented a way to detect the disease from an aerial-mounted imaging device, so you can detect the disease before the human eye can even see it,” he said. “This will help our Wisconsin potato farmers in dealing with this terrible disease, but it certainly has global implications as well.” 

Another innovation with potential widespread impact comes from the chemistry department, and involves using a new membrane technology to improve the economics of purifying and desalinating water. 

“We certainly are aware of the challenges with potable water, drinking water challenges around the globe,” Keenan said.  

See more: 

— A new coalition of large employers in Milwaukee aims to double the number of tech industry workers in the area by 2025. 

The MKE Tech Hub Coalition is being formed with a combined $5 million commitment from Advocate Aurora Health, Johnson Controls, Northwestern Mutual, Rockwell Automation, Kohl’s and Accenture. 

According to a release, the not-for-profit group will act as an accelerator for the local technology industry, supporting other initiatives and organizations driving innovation and business growth in the area. 

“The digitalization of traditional functions and processes in industry are changing the way companies do business, so it is vital to the sustainability of this region to have a strong tech presence and to attract the tech workforce of the future,” said George Oliver, chairman and CEO of Johnson Controls. 

The coalition has announced a number of secondary goals: increasing the number of tech startups in the area; cultivating a “dynamic vision and image” for the region to attract skilled workers; increasing the number of tech companies moving to or expanding in Milwaukee; and supporting freelance workers. 

A CEO has yet to be named, but in the meantime, the coalition’s board will develop strategies to fulfill these goals. 

See the release: 

See the coalition’s new site: 

— A rural Ob-Gyn residency program at the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health is expanding with a new rotation site in Baldwin. 

Starting today, Western Wisconsin Health will join the rural rotation for the program. Newly graduated doctors practice medicine under the supervision of a physician through the program, which lasts four years. 

A release shows the nation’s first rural residency program for obstetrics and gynecology was started at UW SMPH in 2016, aimed at improving the state’s rural shortage of these care practitioners. 

It also shows that 27 of the state’s 72 counties currently have no Ob-Gyn to care for women’s health, with shortages clustered in rural communities. UW SMPH says less than half of rural women in the state live within a 30-minute drive to a hospital with perinatal services, and more than 10 percent have to drive 100 miles or more to see an Ob-Gyn. 

Residency program training is split between sites in Madison and various rural sites across the state, located in Portage, Waupun, Monroe and now Baldwin. 

Rural residents complete a single rural rotation in their third and fourth years of training, and two one-month rural rotations in their second and third year. Currently, three residents are in the program and the first rural resident is set to graduate in 2021.

See the release: 

— Foxconn has announced a new “Earn and Learn” program for college students in hopes of enticing them to work for the company in Wisconsin, according to a recent report in BizTimes Milwaukee. 

The report shows students will be hired as full-time workers by Foxconn, and given paid time off to earn credits from their respective colleges and universities. To start, the program is being launched with UW-Parkside and Gateway and Chippewa Valley technical colleges, per the report. 

See more in Foxconn Reports below. 

— Gov. Tony Evers and Missy Hughes, the new secretary and CEO for WEDC, will be traveling around the state this week to visit with regional economic development groups. 

Hughes officially began her new role at the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. Oct. 1. She said these sessions will help her understand the challenges facing communities across the state, as well as Wisconsin’s “many successes.” 

“We want to work together to create a vibrant economy that benefits all our citizens,” Hughes said in a release. “I look forward to meeting with local and regional leaders to hear how WEDC is assisting them — and what more we can do to help.”

The statewide tour will include visits with the Milwaukee 7, the New North, the Madison Regional Economic Partnership, Centergy, Grow North, Prosperity Southwest, 7 Rivers Alliance, Momentum West and Visions Northwest. 

Evers and Hughes will also be meeting with local government leaders, business leaders and others. The guv is “tentatively scheduled” to join Hughes in Rhinelander, Wausau, Green Bay, Waukesha and Eau Claire, the release shows. 

Scheduled stops include: Rhinelander, Wausau and Phillips, Monday; Stevens Point and Green Bay, Tuesday; Green Bay, Manitowoc, Appleton and Waukesha, Wednesday; Milwaukee and Madison,Thursday; Eau Claire, Friday; and La Crosse and Prairie du Chien, Oct. 14. 

See more in the WEDC release: 


# Convention host cities tell Milwaukee to play the long game

# Leader of Wisconsin’s largest business group concerned about economic slowdown — not recession

# Six area companies launch MKE Tech Hub Coalition with $5 million

# Cellular Logistics, Cellular Dynamics scientists to study heart treatment in pigs



– Extremely wet fall challenging farmers waiting for a window to spread manure

– Chippewa Valley club calf sale planned for October 5

– State cheese output bounces after eight months of decline


– Wisconsin exports down 6.5% in August, on pace for $1.2 billion decline in 2019


– Discovery Farms Conference slated for December


– Tilia, Wisconsin’s first on-staff conservation dog hunts down invasive species


– Foxconn launches ‘earn and learn’ program for college students

– Foxconn announces training program for students


– UW study: Electric pulses hidden by hats could help reverse balding

– After recent pause, Epic Systems plans further expansion


– Here are the first four investments from Venture Investors’ new $75M health VC fund


– Land sale dispute holding up developments in Mukwonago, village says

– Court allows Chocolate Shoppe to re-open Atwood Avenue store while lawsuit pending


– Allen Edmonds shifting focus toward more casual shoes


– O’Reilly Auto Parts store planned on Milwaukee’s north side

– 11-story apartment project designs include Harbor District mural

– ‘Consistency, please’ — The best and worst communities for real estate developers

– Sun Prairie company celebrates growth, new headquarters and 20th anniversary


– State regulators: Proposed Superior natural gas plant would have negative effects on groundwater

– Milwaukee receives $5.9M from HUD to remove lead from homes


– Walmart unveils remodeled Greenfield store

– Von Maur plans second Wisconsin location at former Boston Store site


– Intel bringing True View system to Bucks’ Fiserv Forum


– Milwaukee Bucks closer to finalizing contracts for hotels near Fiserv Forum


– Tom Still: Common ingredients for university based startups


<i>See these and other press releases: </i>

Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation: Matalco, Inc. establishes operations in Wisconsin Rapids

Wisconsin Bankers Association: How to protect your small business from business email compromise scams

Dairy Business Association: Farmers attend Dairy Strong for free – Register by Nov. 1