| The Kansan
Marc Dunshee crashed his left leg on a dirt bike, an injury from which he was never able to fully recover. He spent 10 years with pain in and out of doctor’s offices before taking drastic action to end that pain.
He asked the doctors to cut off his leg. He had to ask several times before the doctors said yes and planned an operation.
And while this could have been the greatest life-changing moment in Dunshee’s life, another was yet to come. He applied to a company that made prostheses and wanted to learn how to make his own leg.
“The [stuff] is expensive, “he said.
There he met Kyle Trivisonno, who made prosthetic legs. And it was Kyle who asked Dunshee a question that would really change his life.
“He asked me what I thought of making a leg out of hemp,” said Dunshee. “Personally, I never thought of it, I was just learning how the layers were built … He had looked at hemp for a long time before meeting me.”
Trivisonno went to work in his garage creating a new leg out of hemp-based materials. It was inexpensive, light, strong, and durable.
“When I got this hemp pan, I put it on my walking leg and it stays there,” said Dunshee.
That was about four years ago.
The leg was so easy to use that Dunshee competed in a triathlon – the 2019 IRONMAN 70.3 North Carolina. This race is a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride, and 13.1 mile run. He finished the race in 6 hours, 46 minutes and 4 seconds – he finished first in his division and the 1,590. Overall rank.
Its time and placement did not matter. Not at all.
“When I finished, I wondered if I was going to do another one,” said Dunshee. “… I’m telling you this event, I had the time of my life. If you’ve ever thought of it, do it. Sign up, download an exercise program, and don’t worry about the times. Worry the distance. They won’t roll you up and throw you off course. “
For the record, Dunshee also completed two marathons – 26.2 miles – and is also watching the Boston Marathon this fall.
When he finished the first race, Sam Spallitta, CEO of Human Plant Solutions, and Trivisonno cheered as if their favorite team had just won a world championship. All three started working even harder developing Human Plant Solutions, a company that ended up in a NIAR incubator in Wichita a few years later.
The company will relocate in Newton this month, occupying 2,000 square feet, or roughly half of Building V at Newton City-County Airport, which was previously inhabited by ABI. Dunshee expects to move to Kansas to help move and grow the company.
“This will be cool for the people … who can’t afford health insurance but are too rich for Medicaid,” said Dunshee. “How do you get a prosthesis? Nobody wants to talk about this problem. There are millions of them.”
“There are 40 million people in the world who do not have access to prosthetic care or who cannot afford it,” said Spallitta. “There is a lack of education and sustainable materials.”
Human Plant Solutions uses hemp fiber and has created an alternative to traditional ultra-light composites for the manufacture of prostheses and devices. The Wichita-based company also makes “Eco-Resin”, which is designed to replace petroleum-based resins, and “No-Glass,” a natural fiber-based substitute for fiberglass.
The goal, said Spallitta, is to replace carbon.
“The reason carbon was introduced into the prosthesis industry is because of the aerospace industry. It is appropriate that we go back to the aerospace capital and give them a natural fiber,” Spallitta said. “There are so many uses for hemp right now. … The facility has so many functions.”
Spallitta said Kansas has a lot of potential in the hemp growing world. With 45,759,319 acres of farmland in the state, he believes there is room to grow the plant.
“The big boys play here,” said Spallitta. “We don’t currently have the infrastructure in the US to grow a long-fiber industrial fiber for textile use. We don’t have the processing capabilities to turn it into a yarn. … That’s why Kyle and I created We always had the goal of prosthetics but no one had a way to process the plant. We spent a lot of time researching there … and why we want to be in Kansas. At some point there will be native hemp grown in the United States. “
This agreement with the city, which will be reviewed by the Harvey County Commission next week, allows the company to work rent-free for up to six months so the company can grow and find permanent homes in the area.
The company plans to employ five people and expand. They expect a capital investment of $ 600,000 and 10 full-time positions by 2025.
The 4-year-old company will be based in Newton at the Newton City / County Airport in a building in need of some kind of rebirth of its own – Building V, known as the ABI Building, where something went wrong after construction.
So far nothing has been produced in the building and the original tenants have vacated the building.
“It’s the perfect building for us,” said Spallitta. “I know it has a story … I like being there. It is very motivating to go there knowing that every day we grow increases the ability to stay here. “