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Renew Bio - Leading the next agriculture revolution

What is Renew Bio?


Renew Bio develops innovative, sustainable solutions for modern agriculture and food waste. Renew Bio collects food waste at point-of-distribution for aerobic digestion in order to deliver reliable, low-cost, safe organic fertilizers and bio stimulants. By intercepting food waste and creating a high-value organic fertilizer using innovative aerobic processing, Renew Bio recycles excess food waste, reduces methane and carbon dioxide emissions, and delivers key nutrients to aid critical food production.


What problems is Renew Bio trying to solve?

It will be important to source scraps that do not compete with other higher and better uses of food such as food banks, or animal feed. Creating a partnership program to divert unspoiled scraps to these more sustainable uses will be part of the brand identity of the venture. Food banks currently must pay for disposal of spoiled food and can be an ideal customer or partner for sourcing food waste. While the aerobic process is carbon neutral itself, the nominal amounts of energy necessary for mixing and aerating the reactor will need to be accounted for to produce a truly sustainable and carbon-neutral product. While most of the energy for the process is provided in by microorganisms, careful engineering design (e.g., insulation, heat pumps, etc.) and integration of renewable energy sources will be considered during the scale-up phase of the venture. Renew Bio’s use of pre-consumer food waste (90-95%, or more, water by mass) meets nearly all water needs, ensuring that the impact on water will be minimal. Potentially, Renew Bio’s aerobic technology offers net-negative water use if products are concentrated. Finally, the company recycles microbially-active liquor (water) back into the aerobic digesters to provide both water and catalysis for further hydrolysis and aerobic digestion.


Renew Bio addresses pain points such as the high cost of organic fertilizers, unreliability in fertilizer NPK ratios, and limited distribution and application methods for agricultural uses. Currently, the production cost per lb of organic nitrogen fertilizer ranges from $3.13 to $9.00. Conversely, synthetic nitrate-based fertilizers (fossil-fuel intensive) cost around $1.36 per lb. Renew Bio’s technology can produce a high-value time-release naturally derived solid biofertilizer for less than $1/lb and liquid biofertilizer products for less than $0.10 per gallon. Renew Bio’s low production costs are derived from both not having to pay for feedstocks, and that most of the energy inputs are provided by the microbes themselves. These drastically lower production costs are a game changer for farmers who want to switch to organic methods or even conventional farmers who need microbially active bio stimulants to help release mineralized or otherwise biologically unavailable nutrients already in their soil.


Who’s behind Renew Bio?




Currently, Renew Bio’s team consists of a few Yale graduate students and two Biotechnology Business and Science Advisors. The team combines expertise in business development, market research, economics, chemical engineering, and biotechnology.



Harrison Meyer is a first-year MEM at Yale School of Environment. His background is environmental biotechnology, chemical engineering, and sustainable development. Well-versed in algae biofuel development, he brings in-depth understanding and optimization of bioreactor design. Harrison has previously built 100L bioreactor systems and worked on multi-thousand liter bioreactors under continuous operational conditions. Harrison has an MS in Environmental and Chemical Engineering from Arizona State University and a BA in Chemistry from Boston University.


The second member of the team, Grace Buie, is a first-year MEM/MBA at Yale School of Environment and Yale School of Management. Grace’s background is in economics, sustainability, and management consulting. She brings an in-depth understanding of market research, partnership development, and sustainable management. Grace has a BA in Economics and Environmental Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


As an advisor on the team is Archit Bagaria who is a first-year MBA student at Yale School of Management. Archit’s background is in business development, corporate strategy, and finance. Working in business development and banking prior to Yale, Archit brings an in-depth understanding to scaling business ventures, innovation, sales, and finance and is supporting and advising Renew Bio. Archit has a Bachelors in Commerce from Shri Ram College of Commerce at Delhi University and a professional degree in Alternative Investments Analysis.


On the advisor front, the team is rounded out by Evan Taylor and Peter Boyd. Evan Taylor is a serial biotechnology entrepreneur and the head of product development and commercialization at Burge Environmental, Inc. Evan has raised over $1m annually in biotech R&D capital over the last 7 years through both venture-funding and Department of Energy Small Business Innovative Research Grants (DOE-SBIR). At Burge, he brought novel technologies to first revenue and initiates licensing agreements to larger industrial partners. As the Principal at Tilt at Windmills, Inc, he consulted for early-stage ventures focused on social impact, biotechnology, IoT, and environmental technologies. Evan was a founder and CEO of reNature, an OMRI-certified organic biofertilizer company that he grew from the bench-scale to industrial pilots, first revenue, and over 20 employees before exiting. He has a MS in Environmental Management and BS in Sustainability from Arizona State University. And finally, Peter Boyd is Renew Bio’s second advisor, who is affiliated with Yale’s Center for Business and the Environment.



What makes the technology at Renew Bio Unique?



Renew Bio’s aerobic process is a scalable and carbon neutral path forward for replacing 100% of synthetic nitrogen and other unsustainably produced fertilizers used in agriculture. With over 108 billion pounds of food wasted each year in the US, only 4.8% of food waste is diverted from the landfill. Renew Bio fills a critical technology gap to close the loop between wasted food and fertilizer production to grow more food. Finally, Renew Bio’s innovative aerobic digestion technology radically improves on contemporary food waste recycling methods by decreasing the methane and carbon dioxide emissions associated with traditional composting and anaerobic digestion. Renew Bio’s technology produces less than 1/20 of the carbon dioxide emissions and zero methane emissions of anaerobic and composting techniques.

The process works at ideal thermophilic and mesophilic bacteria temperatures in a highly oxygenated environment providing up to 19 times faster electron transport (conversion of matter rate limit) than any anaerobic process and, critically, conditions that naturally impede or outright destroy most human pathogens (e.g., salmonella and e. coli). This high-throughput continuous flow process is far less capital intensive than batch-style anaerobic digestion allowing a smaller footprint and less energy intensity while recycling microbially-rich liquor to accelerate liquefaction and hydrolysis of the primary reactor chamber from secondary stage settling tanks. Unlike anaerobic technologies and composting, this energy efficient process can operate in all U.S. markets as it does not rely on food disposal fees (“tipping fees”) to sustain its revenue.



Roadmap


The market of organic farmers is vast, with well over 14,000 certified organic farms in the US and 157 certified organic farms in Connecticut alone. Even more farmers use organic fertilizer without seeking organic certification. Renew Bio canvassed 30 organic farmers across New England about their willingness to try a new organic fertilizer. Of these 30 who were surveyed, 24 were interested in Renew Bio’s new fertilizer product, provided they saw results of equal or better yields as well as competitive fertilizer prices. In fact, most organic farmers surveyed complained that current fertilizer costs and fertilizer inconsistencies were among their chief concerns, and several are concerned about the true bioavailability of “so-called” organic fertilizers. Furthermore, the volatility in traditional synthetic fertilizer prices has been threatening farmer’s profits. Renew Bio’s more consistent organic fertilizer will meet these customers’ requirements. To offer potential customers more information and aid sales, Renew Bio plans to create and document a seed trial illustrating the superiority of the company’s fertilizer products. Finally, Renew Bio plans to expand its customer base by partnering with farmers markets across New England for food waste removal and relationship development.


Renew Bio’s next steps and milestones focus on procurement and a lean startup. Purchasing will be done in 3 phases based on milestones: 1200L Bioreactor (a simplified batch/semi-batch process design) and Bench-scale Maceration parts and equipment, trailer, and parts for portable deployment with a partner site with commercial-scale maceration equipment, and bulk inventory and end-product packaging tanks and containers. Renew Bio’s lean startup milestones focus on building the venture, partnership, product development, fertilizer production, and selling of fertilizer. (Please see the attached basic outline of the Lean Startup Milestones.)


For any further information on Renew Bio - feel free to reach out to Harrison.meyer@yale.edu / Archit.bagaria@yale.edu