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Student Startup Grow Bioplastics Awarded NSF Grant

Tony Bova and business partner Jeff Beegle pose for photos in Oak Ridge Friday, July 15, 2016. Bova and Beegle founded Grow Bioplastics, a company specializing in biodegradable plastic sheets used in landscaping and agriculture. (Adam Brimer / University of Tennessee)

Tony Bova and business partner Jeff Beegle pose for photos in Oak Ridge Friday, July 15, 2016. Bova and Beegle founded Grow Bioplastics, a company specializing in biodegradable plastic sheets used in landscaping and agriculture. (Adam Brimer / University of Tennessee)

Grow Bioplastics, a student startup, has received a $225,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant. The award will fund research and development work on lignin-biomass-based biodegradable plastics for agricultural applications, specifically plastic mulches.

Grow Bioplastics’ team, led by co-founders Tony Bova and Jeff Beegle, will use the SBIR funding to create new biodegradable plastics from lignin, a waste product of the paper and biofuel industries. Bova is an energy science and engineering PhD candidate in UT’s Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education. Beegle, a recent graduate with a master’s degree in microbiology, also completed his studies in the Bredesen Center.

The company’s biodegradable product offers an alternative to plastic mulch films used by farmers nationwide. Current nondegradable plastics must be removed at the end of each growing season and cannot be recycled. Grow Bioplastics’ biodegradable film can be plowed into the soil after each use, offering a solution to the additional labor costs and environmental impact of current films.

Continue reading at news.utk.edu.

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