Wisconsinites who enjoy spending their time on Lake Michigan are no stranger to zebra mussels – an invasive creature that has not only made its home within the vast body of water, but also congregates on boats and other surfaces.
Army veteran Tyler Rezachek is one of these Wisconsinites. His frustration with constantly having to clean the mussels off his boat led him to identify a problem with a business-related solution.
Rezachek began leaning into his entrepreneurial side following a five-year stint in the Army, from 2008 to 2013. He found the transition back into civilian life was less than smooth.
“I quickly realized I was unemployable and needed something to myself,” said Rezachek.
While attending an entrepreneurship bootcamp for veterans at Texas A&M University, he tapped into an idea that had lingered in his mind for years.
“That was one of the most pivotal moments in my life,” Rezachek said. “It gave me the confidence to start thinking about AntiMussel.”
Rezachek, who grew up fishing on Lake Michigan, officially launched AntiMussel last May. The startup’s solution to zebra mussels is to have the creatures vacuumed up by boats that are set to patrol an automated path. Once the mussels are collected, they are converted into calcium carbonate.
“We normally get calcium carbonate from rocks,” said Rezachek. “The process right now is mining big rocks, smashing them into a really fine powder, putting it into a pill form, and selling it. The rocks they’re mining are limestone, which are several-million-years-old seashells. In my mind, you can just skip those million years, and we can pull them off the lake.”
The calcium carbonate made of out zebra mussels has a higher purity rate than the product made from limestone. It is the world’s only source of renewable calcium carbonate, according to northeast Wisconsin’s economic development corporation New North.
AntiMussel took home second place and a $1,000 cash prize at New North’s pitch competition, which was held at TitletownTech in Green Bay last December. In addition, Rezachek has also received $16,900 in grant funding. Outside of that funding, he has been bootstrapping. Rezachek is hoping to launch a pilot program in Plymouth this spring.
Founder: Tyler Rezachek
Service: Removal of the invasive zebra mussel
Goal: Launch a pilot program this spring
Experience: Previously founded an industrial hemp brokerage