Dr. Suresh Menon is on a quest to halt the global use of antibiotics in animal feeds, save our planet from waste practices impacting precious natural resources, and promote health for humans and animals. He has dedicated most of his life to innovation and philanthropic activities that improve food sustainability, preservation of endangered species, and enhance human nutrition.
Serial entrepreneur and inventor Dr. Suresh Menon.
The celebrated Escondido scientist and serial entrepreneur humbly attributes his success to the support of his parents, family, and friends. Yet, from an outsider’s view, his vision and efforts deserve acknowledgment.
Menon is the Founder and President of Escondido-based Menon Renewable Products, which makes Mr. Feed®, a revolutionary animal feed, and Menon Biosensors, which has developed a rapid COVID-19 test that will help in the fight against the deadly virus. “I’ve been thinking about science in terms of how to help mankind’s life security,” Menon said. “So if I can guarantee food for our children and our future, I will take every step in that direction.”
“He is a truly inspiring game changer and makes us proud that his world headquarters is based right here in Escondido,” said Amber Tarrac, Escondido’s Deputy Director of Economic Development.
Feeding Animals to Secure Human Survival
Mr. Feed® is an animal feed that converts waste into feed for animals and has shown to improve digestibility, increase animal survival rates, and growth. Additionally, it is the first of its kind to do all this while getting rid of the need for antibiotics in animal feed.
Consumer shrimp that have been fed Mr. Feed®.
“Our mission is to get rid of antibiotics in animal feed while utilizing renewable resources to make various proteins for both animals and humans,” said Menon.
The idea for Mr. Feed® originated when Menon was working for the US Department of Defense. He had a contract to produce various proteins and oils from agricultural waste. This led to commercializing the product and a five-year journey including building a pilot plant to prove the product, finding a worldwide market that believed in it, and the grueling permitting process to certify its applicability. It is now used commercially in 15 markets worldwide.
Menon Renewable Products supplies Mr. Feed® to the world’s largest shrimp farmers in Saudi Arabia; the largest Asian shrimp farmers in Indonesia, which supplies shrimp to Walmart; and snapper fish farmers in Costa Rica, which is sold at Costco. The company also supplies feed to Tyson, the American chicken farm, and has been testing its product with one of the top US swine industry companies with positive results.
Mr. Feed® ingredients made from agricultural waste.
Menon explained that Mr. Feed® does five things for our planet:
- It provides a guaranteed supply of food for animals. “This is a formulator’s dream,” added Menon. With this product, farmers don’t have to worry about the supply chain, the product is always available.
- It creates a solution to feed the next one billion people. Because it is created from waste, there will always be enough waste to utilize to produce the product and its design creates a healthier, more viable number of livestock.
- It is free of antibiotics. There is a US mandate that by 2023 all antibiotics need to be eliminated from animal diets. This is the first product of its kind to provide this solution.
- It helps the farmers. Without antibiotics, crop disease lessens, animals thrive without disease, and the farmers’ revenues will increase as they will have greater yields with less waste.
- It’s environmentally friendly and sustainable. The impact on land, energy, and water decreases with Mr. Feed®. “Our product has no impact on land because it’s already waste, there’s no impact on water because there’s plenty of water in the waste that we utilize in our production process, and as far as energy is concerned, we use solar. So overall we are extremely sustainable and provide a very low carbon footprint,” Menon said.
Menon said the idea is to use waste that is being thrown away as renewable resources.
“We can work those materials into proteins that give the animal the right kind of nutrition so we can get rid of antibiotics, increase the overall yields, and feed the next billion people.”
“These efforts dovetail with the City’s continued focus on agriculture, agtech, and biotech in our community. We want to create a business friendly hub for companies in these industries, right here in Escondido,” said Amber Tarrac, Escondido’s Deputy Director of Economic Development.
Improving Testing to Eradicate COVID-19
Another government contract led Menon to find a way to help solve a worldwide problem – the COVID-19 virus.
“We developed a nano barcode tag that binds to the RNA of the virus and upon binding generates a signal. So for the first time, you can visualize the invisible enemy, the SARS COV II,” said Menon.
Called the Molecular Mirror™, it is a diagnostic platform that detects bacterial and viral pathogens. While it has not been used to detect COVID-19 previously, the technology is adaptable to detect the presence of any bacterial or viral pathogen. UC San Diego and Menon are currently testing its accuracy in hopes of finding a more realistic solution to ongoing, mass testing needed to control the spread of COVID-19.
They are finding that the testing is not only accurate, but is also fast and can test up to 100,000 samples in one hour using an MRI machine.
Suresh Menon, right, CEO and founder of Menon Biosensors, Inc. and David Pride, director of molecular microbiology at UCSD Health at At UC San Diego Center for Advanced Laboratory Medicine.
“So if you can imagine thousands of samples received in a single shot and you can return the answers in an hour or two, you know exactly what’s going on,” he added.
Menon’s team is currently in trial phases with UCSD.
“The goal of the trial is to unequivocally prove that our Molecular Mirror™ technology could be the solution to the global need for high volume testing in order to curve the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “While our internal tests have proven the concept, we need to prove that under controlled conditions our technology can be quickly adapted to any virus or disease and implemented using standard equipment across the world for rapid detection of these pathogens.”
The Molecular Mirror™ – which was originally developed for detecting bioweapons for the U.S. government – is currently one of the 15 finalists in the XPrize, a global contest that encourages design and technology that benefits humankind.
In addition to these two innovative technologies, Menon – a native of Kerala, India – is passionate about supporting wild elephants in India and other wildlife. His philanthropic work includes providing technologies to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido at no cost to help treat tuberculosis in elephants and support the northern white rhinos with the hopes of helping many more endangered wild animal populations across the globe.
“We are very much connected to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and we will continue to support them in the future,” Menon said.
Getting to volunteer with and contribute to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s mission as well as being located in the hub of biotechnologies is why Menon chose Escondido to open his businesses and why he plans to stay. “Here you are exposed to biotech, life science, and a breadth of intellectual capacity, and the university nearby,” he said. “It’s simply unmatched.”