Grow Bioplastics, a startup company founded by UT students, beat fourteen competitors to win the spring 2016 Vol Court Pitch Competition hosted by UT’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
The Grow Bioplastics team includes Tony Bova and Jeff Beegle, both doctoral candidates with UT’s Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education. The students created a biodegradable alternative to the plastic mulch film currently used in agricultural applications.
They developed the cost-effective and ecofriendly product based on a patent through Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Black plastic sheeting is used on many farms to retain ground moisture and temperature and keep unwanted weeds out of the fields. It’s effective, but at the end of the growing season the plastic must be removed and disposed of, which creates a significant cost for the farm.
To solve this problem, the team created sheets of biodegradable mulch film made of lignin, a natural waste product of the paper industry. This allows farmers to till the film into the ground at the end of the season, saving them the expense of removing it, and it keeps oil-based plastic products out of landfills.
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