Halloween may be over, but the Great Pumpkin might be heading to Vincennes, Ind.
That's where startup firm AgroRenew LLC plans to build an $83 million plant to turn food waste from local pumpkin, watermelon and cantaloupe farms into bioplastics. The plant is expected to create almost 250 jobs and eventually will cover almost 200,000 square feet, company officials said in a news release. The project was announced Nov. 3 by Vincennes Mayor Joe Yochum and officials from the Knox County Indiana Economic Development Corp.
AgroRenew founder Brian Southern said in an interview with Inside Indiana Business that the idea for the plant came from talking with local farmers about what to do with excess harvest that isn't purchased or has not passed quality control.
"We started to explore the emerging trends of bioplastics and determined that there are some chemical elements within some of the watermelon that can be used, blended with some other biosource products, that allow us to create the right chemical structure to create a biodegradable plastic resin polymer," Southern said.
Southern added in the interview that Knox County "is one of the largest producing watermelon farms in the country. … If you look at Knox County … and the surrounding area, there's an excess of just a great resource, biomaterial that we can utilize. And also we're not diverting from the food supply chain."
AgroRenew plans to break ground on the plant in 2024. It's expected to be able to process about 100 million pounds of food waste per season and produce more than 300 million pounds of bioplastic annually.
According to local media reports, the project is being self-funded, along with private equity and customer partners who are investing in the plant.