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Student Develops All-Natural Insect Repellent For Horses

A Virginia Commonwealth University student’s fundraising campaign to begin production of her all-natural insect repellent for horses has exceeded its $15,000 goal. Brooke Riggs, a senior chemical engineering major in the School of Engineering, held a Kickstarter campaign to start rolling out her Champion’s Natural Fly Spray, which has a proprietary blend of natural essential oils to repel flies, gnats and other insects without the use of DEET, pyrethrins or other synthetic chemicals. By the final day of the monthlong campaign, Riggs has raised $17,421 from 124 backers.

“I’ve been riding horses since I was 9 and I go to school for chemical engineering. I’d always imagined that one day I could combine the two by using my chemical engineering knowledge to formulate products for horses,” said Riggs, who is from Colonial Heights. “I thought maybe I could come up with a fly spray that would be safer than other products on the market but that would still be effective.”

Riggs spent two years researching and developing the product, which she says not only avoids the harmful chemicals found in the sprays commonly used to control flies in the equestrian community, it also acts as a natural coat conditioner for the horse.

“I’m really excited. It's really nice to see all my work from the past two years pay off,” Riggs said. “I’d like to thank everyone for their support.”

She invented the product while going to school at VCU and working part-time at TheLab, the research and development lab of Huvard Research and Consulting Inc., located in Chesterfield County. The company was founded by Gary S. Huvard, Ph.D., a former VCU faculty member who is also Riggs’ mentor.

Riggs said her Kickstarter campaign was successful because of the support of the equestrian community.

“I spent a lot of time reaching out to people in the horse industry,” she said. “I kept an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of people to contact and messaged over 800 people. My co-workers at Huvard Research and Consulting also helped to reach out to as many people as we could.”

Equestrians, she said, are eager for an all-natural fly spray, which is needed to keep horses — and horseback riders — insect-free without harsh chemicals.

“There are tons of flies and gnats that just swarm you [when you're riding a horse],” she said. “Fly sprays give you a break from that so you can go riding without having to swat flies away the whole time.”

Now that her Kickstarter campaign has wrapped up, Riggs said the next step is to apply for a provisional patent and to get registered by the Environmental Protection Agency.

“We’re looking for distributors now who would like to sell it. I'm lining all that up right now. In a month or so, I’m hoping that Champion’s Natural Fly Spray will be available on the market,” she said. “The Kickstarter backers will receive their product first.”

Article by Brian McNeill, Virginia Commonwealth University Office of Public Affairs and originally published on VCU News.