Perspectives Online

Culpepper brings SePRO to eastern North Carolina

Nash County native and N.C. State alumnus Bill Culpepper
Bill Culpepper announces that SePRO, his aquatics and ornamental horticulture company, will relocate its research and development division to newly purchased facilities in Whitakers.
(Photo by Becky Kirkland)
Nash County native and N.C. State alumnus Bill Culpepper has built his Indiana company fighting weeds - aquatic weeds. SePRO, his specialty agrichemical company based outside Indianapolis, makes the leading brand of aquatic herbicide for selective treatment of invasive and nuisance plants.

That herbicide is at work in North Carolina's Lake Gaston, Michigan's Houghton Lake and in the wetlands of Florida.

"The problem of aquatic weeds is more than just creating clean and clear water. The problem is flood control," said Culpepper, a 1966 graduate of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in crop science. If invasive plants such as Hydrilla verticillata, an underwater plant that forms dense mats, were allowed to grow unchecked in Florida lakes like Kissimmee, flooding throughout Florida would be disruptive and disastrous, Culpepper said.

Culpepper returned to Rocky Mount in August to announce that SePRO had purchased the Zeneca research facilities in nearby Whitakers. The facility has 30 outdoor ponds and mesocosms, which make it perfect for testing SePRO's aquatic herbicides, said Culpepper. SePRO will also be establishing indoor growth rooms for aquarium tests there.

Culpepper said SePRO would relocate its research and development division to the facility.

The new SePRO Research and Technology Campus is among a number of life sciences, pharmaceutical and biotech companies in the Rocky Mount area whose growth and development have been supported by efforts of the Carolinas Gateway Partnership Inc., a coalition of public and private sectors in Nash and Edgecombe counties.

"We're delighted to have them come here," said Claude Mayo, chairman of the Nash County Commissioners. "It's a great pleasure to see a Nash County native come home with so much success."

Culpepper said, "That it's a world-class facility, and that it happens to be here in Nash County is a double pleasure for me."

He grew up on a tobacco farm in the county, attended N.C. State and then worked as a representative of Eli Lilly and Co. He founded SePRO in 1993 and has enlarged the company by purchasing or licensing the chemical products of larger companies. In addition to aquatic weed herbicides, SePRO also makes products for turf, nursery and greenhouse growers, as well as a nonlethal goose repellant. The company also owns ParaPRO LLC, which is developing a new human lice treatment.

SePRO has a long history of contracting with the College's Department of Horticultural Science, and Culpepper hopes his new facility will lead to collaboration with the Crop Science Department, which will soon hire a new aquatic plants researcher.

Culpepper is currently co-chair of the College's $275 million "Windows of Opportunity" fund-raising campaign.

- Anton Zuiker