Tennessee Startup awarded R&D grant for Biodegradable Agricultural Plastics

Grow Plastics StartupGrow Bioplastics, founded in 2016 by the University of Tennessee Knoxville graduate students Tony Bova and Jeff Beegle, has been awarded a National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant for $225,000 to conduct research and development work on Lignin-Biomass Based Biodegradable Plastics for Agricultural Applications, specifically plastic mulches.

Tony Bova and Jeff Beegle, the co-founders of Grow Bioplastics along with the team will use the SBIR funding to create new biodegradable plastics from lignin, a waste product of the paper and biofuel industries. The new lignin-based plastics are used as replacements for petroleum-based plastics that are not biodegradable and difficult to recycle.

Barry Johnson, director of the NSF’s Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships, said, “The National Science Foundation supports small businesses with the most innovative, cutting-edge ideas that have the potential to become great commercial successes and make huge societal impacts.”

Tony Bova, CEO, and co-Founder of Grow Bioplastics commented, “Being selected for this competitive award from the NSF is a huge step for our company. We are very excited to announce two partnerships on this grant. The first with Glucan Biorenewables, LLC to use their novel gamma-valerolactone derived lignin streams, and the second with Dr. David Harper, associate professor at the University of Tennessee Center for Renewable Carbon, to help us evaluate the processability of our materials. This funding will help us validate the fundamental science behind our lignin-based plastic technology Tennessee, and bring us one step closer to realizing our vision for a socially and environmentally driven business model to support a circular economy.”

A small business on an award of a Phase I SBIR/STTR grant (up to $225,000), it becomes eligible to apply for a Phase II grant (up to $750,000).

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