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University of Michigan Innovation Partnerships
University of Michigan Innovation Partnerships

U-M Startup Taza Aya Awarded $1M Grant from USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture


Taza Aya, a new University of Michigan startup focused on non-thermal plasma devices for personal respiratory protection and preventing airborne spread of disease, has recently been awarded a $1 million grant from the USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture. This grant comes in response to the USDA’s Meat and Poultry Processing Research and Innovation (MPPRI) request for applications in October 2022. 

Taza Aya’s awarded project is set to field a small number of prototype devices to provide personal respiratory protection from airborne pathogens for meat and poultry processing workers without requiring the use of traditional face masks. Meat and poultry processing requires workers to perform precise tasks by hand, rapidly and safely, while working in close coordination as a team. Taza Aya will modify their existing product design, intended for anyone in the general public who is at high risk for respiratory disease complications, adapting it to meet the unique working environments found in meat and poultry processing. 

MPPRI is a part of the USDA’s wider goal to invest in and transform the USA’s domestic food supply chain. Part of this revolution is focused on the stabilization of meat and poultry processing, which can be highly vulnerable to disruptions as seen with the COVID-19’s pandemic impact on supply levels. The goal of the MPPRI program “is to make emerging technologies more accessible to small and mid-size processors through work with small business innovators that have demonstrated significant efficacy in development and advancements towards commercialization of relevant technology.”

Taza Aya’s vision for their impact is to help create a world where “safe air is provided as routinely as water from a faucet.” In order to achieve this mission, the startup is working to leverage plasma physics, aerosol science and air quality engineering to deploy unique non-thermal plasma modules for use in wearables, in-room air purifiers, and HVAC systems to prevent the propagation of unsafe air. 

Taza Aya has partnered with Michigan Turkey Producers in Grand Rapids, MI to provide  ergonomic and performance requirements, as well as evaluation of the fielded prototypes. 

About Taza Aya

Taza Aya was founded in 2015 by Dr. Herek Clack, associate professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Michigan (U-M), and Michael Drake, Executive Director of Research Relations for the U-M College of Engineering. Clack has over 20 years of research in air quality engineering, with over 10 of these years focused on biological air pollutants. Clack states that he was motivated to co-found Taza Aya to fix “the utter absence of dedicated infrastructure to provide fresh air.” Clack and Drake have recently been joined by Alberto Elli, as the startup’s new CEO to spearhead early-stage development and fundraising.  The startup was fittingly named for the Kyrgyz phrase for “fresh air”- a tribute to Michael Drake’s work with the Peace Corps in Kyrgyzstan. Taza Aya and Innovation Partnerships executed a licensing agreement together in December 2021.

To learn more about Taza Aya and their research, visit their website at