Interview with 2019 Green Alley Award finalist VEnvirotech
VEnvirotech from Spain competed against over 250 startups, making it to the Green Alley Award finals! The biotechnology startup creates polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) bioplastics using bacteria. The bacteria are fed with organic waste from agricultural food companies, making their bioplastic 100% bio-based. The whole process takes place in a container that can be set up at clients’ facilities. The bioplastic can then be used for packaging, biomedicine, adhesives or 3D printing. Read all about their product and the challenges ahead.
# Your container transforms organic waste into bioplastics. Where do you see the advantages of bioplastics and how do you respond to possible concerns?
Advantages in bioplastics come depending on their characteristics. They might be produced from renewable biomass sources, they could be biodegradable or both characteristics at the same time. Advantages are clear from both sides: less non-renewable resources consumption and bioplastic transformation into natural chemical components in the environment. Possible concerns may appear by the novelty of the materials and the speed with which the market demands them but I would encourage everyone to trust the companies that are leading this plastic revolution because bioplastics are safe and are what the environment is expecting from us.
# How did you come up with the idea to use bacteria for bioplastic production and how has your journey been so far? Did you win over first customers?
The idea came up with a study developed in Barcelona’s University where I participated. I studied the selection of bacteria capable of producing an energy reserve that had the same characteristics as petrol based plastics, that what we call a bioplastic. Then this bioplastic could be extracted from the bacteria and formulated as an organic and biodegradable plastic. I saw the technology robust and simple and I thought it needed a strong business model for taking the technology to society. Then the journey started with a business idea and it’s been a beautiful way until here with a lot of learnings that have come up with an incredible team of eleven people and a big business proposal. We have already started working with our first consumer that is Nestlé Spain and it is being and incredible experience!
# What do you need to accomplish your next steps – and what are those?
We need to validate our bioplastic extraction process at industrial scale to be able to meet the market demand of this product. Right now, we have our industrial portable technology already validated in a real environment of a Spanish agri-food company, but we have our bioplastic extraction process at laboratory scale. This is a big next step for us because it must fit in in accordance with the launch with different customers that will start with the organic waste management system and we want to recover the entire quantity of bioplastic produced diary from these plants.