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March 21, 2017 | Tom Ballard

Grow Bioplastics’ targets product launch in about a year

The TENN 3(EDITOR’S NOTE: The eight teams that comprise the fourth cohort in Launch Tennessee’s “The TENN” master accelerator program bring the curtain down on the experience at a pitch finale set for March 29 at Well Placed Smile, 907 Gleaves Street in Nashville. To register, click here. Ahead of that event, we are running short profiles on each of the teams.)

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

Among all of the start-ups from East Tennessee that we have ever profiled, there is no doubt that Grow Bioplastics has garnered more non-diluted monies through a series of pitch competitions.

The latest of those wins occurred just a few weeks ago when the Knoxville-based company took home $63,500 in the Baylor New Venture Competition. That brought Grow Bioplastics’ total to at least $130,000, not an insignificant amount for a student start-up.

Tony Bova, Co-Founder along with Jeff Beegle, is nearing completion of his doctorate as a member of the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education, a joint venture of the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

During “The TENN Road Show” stop in Knoxville last month, Bova told attendees that the start-up has targeted a full launch in the spring of 2018. That goal follows several years of developing what he describes as a “novel technology” that processes lignin into pellets that can be used to produce biodegradable film.

As explained on the company’s website, “Plastic mulch films are increasingly popular among farmers because they are proven to improve crop yields by maintaining soil moisture content, regulating soil temperature, and preventing the growth of weeds.” The challenge is the fact that farmers must remove and dispose of the films, adding cost and time to the process.

That’s not all. There are also environmental considerations. Eight tons of plastic waste is generated for every 100 acres of farmland. To understand the scale, consider the fact that more than two million acres of farmland in the U.S. are covered by the plastic mulch films that must be removed yearly.

Enter TerraFilm and TerraPotta, two biodegradable plastic products from Grow Bioplastics.

Bova told attendees that the initial focus of the company is on three sectors of the agricultural market – growers of strawberries, tomatoes, and melons.

“We have lined-up key partners,” he said. They are in supply, research, manufacturing and pilot customers like Driscoll’s.

Bova noted that his supply chain is nearby, citing a plant in North Carolina that produces 75 tons of lignin a day. “That’s enough to meet Grow’s needs for a year,” he added.

While the initial focus is on the agricultural market, Bova said other sectors have high potential. They include single use packaging and trash bags.

Readers can review every article that we have published about Grow Bioplastics at this link.

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