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NRRI prototyping moves entrepreneur idea forward

A woman and man stand in front of a blue machine. Man holds circular device.
August 9, 2018

Adventurous entrepreneur turns to NRRI to move idea to market.

“[NRRI] had experience that I didn’t have and a lot of ideas. Everyone contributed a little bit.”

Inspired by the television show “Naked and Afraid,” Jeff Love took his sense of adventure – and not much else – to spend five days in the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness in 2016. “But with clothes on,” he added with a laugh.

Love is a millwright by trade and a self-proclaimed “tinkerer.” He packed up a kayak with some rudimentary supplies, including his fishing pole, a hand saw and a water filter.

“I had plenty to eat, plenty of wood for a fire… but water, man, that was constant work. With all that fishing and cutting wood, I was thirsty,” said Love.

He had brought along a small filter that produced about a cup at a time. When he returned home, Love shopped for something that was compact yet would provide an easy and fast method to supply filtered water. When his search came up dry, he brainstormed with his son. Using commercially available items, Love cobbled together a floating filter system operating on a battery.

“It worked! I could get about five gallons of water on a nine volt battery and about eight gallons with a lithium,” he said. Excited about the possibility of having a unique and marketable product, he showed it to Shannon Benolken at Itasca Economic Development Corporation who conducted a marketing study and sent Love to NRRI for prototyping assistance.

NRRI Business Strategic Project Manager Shima Hosseinpour pulled a team together to help Love move his idea to the next phase. “We brainstormed ideas for the design and developed the first two prototypes,” said Hosseinpour.

The University’s Office of Technology Commercialization conducted thorough patent search showed that Love’s water filter had some unique features.

“It was really good to work with NRRI,” said Love. “They had experience that I didn’t have and a lot of ideas. Everyone contributed a little bit.”

NRRI Business Development and Intellectual Property Manager, Tim White, helped Love understand the process of taking an idea through product development to production. Working with students at UMD’s Department of Engineering will refine the product further for successful injection molding production.

“My goal is to make four of the Water Mender filter units and then ask friends to test them in the field, and give me feedback,” he said. “Hopefully I’ll have products to sell at the Minneapolis and Duluth Sports Shows in the spring.”