Tennessee-based biomass company Genera reported securing more than $118 million for a manufacturing facility. The company plans to start making a line of plant-based paper and packaging products called Earthable.
Genera says the financing was anchored by an equity investment from WindSail Capital Group, which worked with investors Coppermine Capital and Stairway Capital.
“We and our partners are investing in Genera because they are pioneering a solution that will serve both our domestic rural economy and the rapidly growing demand for environmentally friendly packaging in the consumer market,” commented Ian Bowles, managing director of WindSail Capital Group. “The market opportunity for domestically sourced non-wood fiber and packaging products is enormous.”
Earthable will be the largest fully integrated, domestic solution for agriculture-based fiber and food-grade packaging in the United States, according to Genera. The company says it plans to use locally grown grasses and other agricultural crops to produce compostable food service packaging at a new manufacturing facility in Tennessee.
Their facility is currently under construction in Vonore, a town located on the edge of the Nantahala National Forest roughly 36 miles from Knoxville. It’s expected to be ready to start delivering Earthable products next year.
Fibers derived from locally grown high-yield conservation crops like switchgrass and biomass sorghum will be used for making packaging such as plates, bowls, and takeout containers, the company said. Genera indicated that they have already started working with farmers in East Tennessee to produce the feedstock for the new manufacturing facility.
A number of businesses in the food service and hospitality industry have been turning to compostables in the past several years. In March Starbucks announced plans to begin testing compostable cups in five cities worldwide.
At the same time, compostables still present some challenges. Speaking to Environmental Leader this year, AEG’s John Marler noted that having an industrial composter in the market is a factor in the global sports and live entertainment company’s quest for zero waste. “You see paper-based water bottles and aluminum water bottles,” he said. “Time will tell.”