Syracuse native earns state ‘Innovative Small Business of the Year’ honor

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SYRACUSE, Ind. (WANE) — InsightTRAC, a company founded by a Syracuse native, is being recognized as Indiana’s Innovative Small Business of the Year.

“It was a huge honor,” said Anna Haldewang, InsightTRAC’s founder. “We’re really excited and proud to be a small business in Indiana and we look forward to growing in this state.”

The Culver Academy graduate’s small business is one of nine being recognized as part of Small Business Week throughout the state. According to the Indiana Economic Development Corp., there are more than 529,000 small businesses throughout Indiana.

InsightTRAC provides on-site robotic pest removal and data tracking services to help almond growers better manage and optimize their profit per tree. Haldewang said it’s initially targeting the almond industry.

The business provides a solution for the pest navel orangeworm, which according to Hadlewang, is the biggest pest problem for growers.

“It’ll burrow inside of mummies, which are rotting almonds in the wintertime, in the trees, and it’ll hibernate inside of those,” said Haldewang. “Then in the spring, they’ll emerge into a moth, and they’ll damage the quality and the yield of next year’s crop.”

The current method to remove these mummies from the trees relies on weather, labor to come in, and is costly, according to Haldewang. Depending on the amount of mummies per tree, the service can cost up to $400 per acre.

“It’s back-breaking work and growers are struggling to find people to do this job, said Haldewang. “So, we’ve invented a way to automate this method.”

Haldewang’s method uses a rover to roam through the rows of crops and shoot the mummies down with earth-friendly biodegradable pellets. The cost of InsightTRAC’s service is $166/acre for about 50 mummies per tree.

This idea stemmed from one of Hadlewang’s college projects that went viral.

“CNN heard about it and it snowballed from there,” said Hadlewang. “From the feedback I received, I ended up founding the company in 2017 and set my sights on the almond industry because they rely 100% on bees to pollinate their crops and so I built a simple pollinating drone.”

She tried out the drone in Australia, the world’s second-highest almond producer, but it did not work.

“We had a lot of wind issues and battery issues, so I came back from that trip, and asked myself, ‘Well, where can I go from here?” said Hadlewang.

That’s when she made the switch from drone to ground robotics, and eventually took her new idea out to California.

“While I was out there I was having lunch with one of my advisors, and he came to me complaining about these navel orangeworms and these mummies,” said Hadlewang. “From that conversation and listening to other growers, I discovered that there was a greater need for innovation within the water sanitation space. So in 2019 we pivoted from pollination to water sanitation, and we’ve been in development since.”

Hadlewang said she eventually plans to expand her company’s services to crops more local to Indiana, such as apples and peaches.

“I think I’m drawn to this because I love the customer,” said Hadlewang. “Getting to know the growers over the past few years, I enjoy listening my stories, enjoying hearing more about their backgrounds and hearing about the pain points that they have in the industry… I know that I can take those strengths and help them produce greater yields in return.”

The rover is being fine-tuned now and plans to launch in 2023.

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