Ag Startup to Convert Watermelon Waste into Bioplastics

Did you know you could turn watermelon waste and turn it into plastics? That’s what a newly formed company in Indiana called AgroRenew is planning to do.

“We’re taking watermelon waste and reducing it down into a micron dust and blending it with some other bio sources to form a resin polymer that can then be used to make various types of plastics.” 

That’s Brian Southern, who has co-founded AgroRenew with his wife Katie.

“The uniqueness about this is that this plastic is 100 percent biodegradable. Everything gets decomposed and goes back into the soil including replacing nutrients in the soil, so it’s very unique from that perspective.” 

He says the idea was created to convert watermelon waste into bioplastics after talking with several watermelon producers in southern Indiana.

“[My wife and I] were talking to them about the amount of food waste they have every year because their crops don’t sell, or they don’t pass their quality inspections. The number is just staggering—it’s approximately 100 million pounds a year. We were thinking there has to be something better we can do with that, and so we started to research. My wife, Katie, use to be a food scientist, and I was a processing engineer, so we looked at some other ways that we can utilize this BioSource.” 

That’s when Southern says both he and his wife decided to pool together their knowledge of food science and plastics engineering to develop the new product.

“We decided to experiment and what we were able to determine was that we could use portions of the chemical properties of a watermelon to create a resin polymer that is 100 percent biodegradable.” 

In addition to watermelon waste, the company also plans to use the waste of cantaloupes and pumpkins to convert into eco-friendly bioplastics.

Construction plans are already in the works for AgroRenew’s brand new $83 million facility that’s being built near Vincennes, Indiana.

“We should have most of that completed by the end of this year with a target of sometime in March 2024 of breaking ground. Then we’re estimating about a 10-month build out for the plant. The first phase will be approximately 106,000 square feet with a second phase of adding another 92,000 square feet for production facilities.” 

The new facility is scheduled to open by 2026.