Partnership will tackle innovative methods of converting food wastes

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Samir Khanal, (808) 956-3812
Associate Professor, Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering
Melissa Thompson
Media and Investor Relations, ProtaCulture, LLC
Posted: Sep 30, 2014

Black soldier fly.
Black soldier fly.
Black soldier fly prepupae.
Black soldier fly prepupae.

The non-profit group Energy Excelerator has announced its selection of 17 grantee companies for 2015, its largest cohort to date. Among its grantees is the partnership between the UH Mānoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR)’s Bioenergy and Environment Research Group and the bioconversion company, ProtaCulture LLC, which was selected from a pool of over 250 applicants.

CTAHR Professor Samir Khanal, PhD, P.E. (Professional Engineer), is leading the joint effort in bioprocess engineering. He and his group are working on innovative methods of converting food wastes into biodiesel products and animal/fish feed through harvesting black soldier fly larvae. Says Dr. Khanal about the impact of the project, “The major challenge of producing renewable energy, especially biofuel and animal feed, is the availability of locally available bioresources. However, Hawai‘i produces a significant amount of food wastes, which primarily go to the landfill. This innovative project not only aims to provide biodiesel locally at different islands using various organic wastes, but also to produce feed for local poultry and aquaculture industries with concomitant waste valorization.”

“We are grateful that the selection committee chose ProtaCulture from among hundreds of energy startups to participate in this program,” says Robert Olivier, ProtaCulture’s CEO and founder. “We look forward to an active exchange of ideas with the other entrepreneurs, scientists, engineers and academicians who were selected to participate in this program, as well to accelerating the pace of research, development and commercialization of ProtaCulture’s unique, cutting-edge solutions for bioconversion through insect farming.”

Kenneth Grace, PhD and Associate Dean for Research at CTAHR, has been supportive of this project, including providing college seed funding to assist the research. Says Dr. Grace, “Energy self-sufficiency, developing local sources of animal feed, and waste management are all critical issues for the Pacific islands. It’s fascinating to think that insects, rather than creating problems for us, can actually help us solve these challenges. We are glad to work with ProtaCulture to develop and implement this innovative technology for the benefit of Hawai‘i.”

Adds Olivier, “When addressing some of the chronic issues facing Hawai‘i industries, it's important to have the right partners that can bring about that change. Intellectual capital support from CTAHR and the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa has been immensely valuable.”

Energy Excelerator is a robust community, built by entrepreneurs, and helping other entrepreneurs tackle one of the world’s most pressing needs: energy innovation. Backed by a 5-year, $30 million commitment from the U.S. Navy, as well as private funding, this unique accelerator provides promising startups with the financial capital, partnerships, mentors and business development opportunities to grow and scale their novel technologies. Energy Excelerator creates an ecosystem to “help startups solve the world’s energy challenges—starting in Hawai‘i.”

Comments Dawn Lippert, director of Energy Excelerator, “Public–private partnerships, such as ProtaCulture’s collaboration with UH Mānoa and CTAHR, are critically important for growing Hawai‘i’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. The university’s resources can be leveraged to develop and vet technology, and the private sector works to accelerate technologies out of the lab setting. This is where we pick up, helping companies raise capital and figure out how best to impact Hawai‘i’s economy and energy system.”

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