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From Trash to Cash: Startups shaping the circular economy

OurCrowd online event on May 23 explores technology that’s good for business and good for the environment

Overflowing landfills, polluted waterways, diminishing food supplies – a century of heavy production and consumption have taken a heavy toll on the environment. Finally, governments, businesses and consumers are recognizing that things must change.

Instead of producing and selling as much as possible, enthusiasts of the circular economy say the environmental damage can be reduced by making goods designed to be reused intensively. Startups are deploying cutting-edge technology to push this vital concept of reduce, reuse and recycle in order to assure a greener future.

On May 23, OurCrowd will host Investing in the Circular Economy, an online discussion with industry experts and innovative CEOs who are creating and harnessing new food and renewable energy technologies that reduce environmental damage. They will also explain how being good to the environment can be good for business.

Register here

Guests include Maya Ashkenazi Otmazgin, CEO and Co-Founder of Maolac; Daniel Einhorn, CEO of Mermade Seafoods; Amir Zaidman, vice president of business development at The Kitchen; and Matthew Lumsden, CEO of Connected Energy. The online event will be hosted by Amy Stoken of OurCrowd.

The devastating environmental impacts of the food industry have made it a prime target of efforts to reduce waste and move economies away from resource-intensive production to resource recovery.

“Eliminating the amount of waste that we are producing by the food system is crucial to maintaining the environment and to stopping world hunger,” Zaidman says.

The Kitchen has invested in 23 companies that have raised more than $245 million since the incubator was founded in Israel in 2015. One company in its portfolio, Flying SpArk, is developing a high-quality protein for human consumption from fruit fly larvae. The company recycles other nutritional products to feed the larvae, and then the consumption waste is repackaged and marketed for fish meal, Zaidman says.

Up to half of harvested food is tossed out, he says. A second company at the incubator, Anina, uses discarded fruits and vegetables to create attractive, microwaveable meals out of unsightly produce. Another portfolio holding, Yeap, separates and isolates the proteins from brewer’s yeast to create textured vegetable protein.

“It is very nutritional, and they are saving a lot of waste’’ coming out of the beer industry, Zaidman says.

Food supplements

Otmazgin’s company, Maolac, uses computational biology to turn bovine colostrum – the first milk produced by cows for their newborns – into powerful human food supplements.

Five billion liters of bovine colostrum are thrown away each year, Otmazgin says, but Maolac is working to turn this dairy industry waste into high-quality proteins that can be sold to food, supplement and skin care companies for integration into their own products.

“Basically, we are disrupting the bioactive ingredient market,” Otmazgin says.

Cultivated meat, with its reduced planetary imprint, is gaining wider acceptance, but the high cost of production has been a drag on bringing it to market. What makes it so expensive is the nutrient-rich slurry that meat cells grow in. Mermade Seafoods, a cultivated seafood company, has created huge savings in the cost of the growth medium with a two-pronged recovery process that re-uses the waste instead of discarding it.

“Because the medium is so expensive, any tiny dent you put in by lowering the amount of medium you need makes a very significant difference in cost,” says CEO Daniel Einhorn. It’s completely waste free, and has the potential to reduce costs by a factor of up to 10,000.

“We’re making the same seafood that we all know and love, just without fishing,” he says. “That’s better for not only the planet and the animals and the oceans specifically, but it is also better for you” because there are no potential health hazards like mercury or heavy metals.

Renewable energy

Renewable energy is another sector that figures prominently in the meeting place between technology and the circular economy. UK-based Connected Energy saves landfills from the increasing blight of discarded electric vehicle batteries by using them to store energy.

When car batteries reach the end of their lives, they can still operate at high capacity – just not enough to meet the demands of powering a car. Connected Energy repurposes these depleted batteries, extending their useful lives by years as an energy reserve for power grids.

Energy storage can also play a key role in fostering the integration of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power into power grids, all the while decreasing carbon dioxide emissions that are so harmful to the environment.

“Typically, storage is used to help decarbonize and plays a role in facilitating the uptake of renewable energy,” Lumsden says. “The greener, brighter future for us really now is that we see battery availability ramping up quite significantly.”

OurCrowd’s online event ‘Investing in the Circular Economy: From Trash to Cash’ will be held on March 23. Register HERE

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