By GREGORY ZELLER //
An outer-borough biotech with a Long Island lineage is racing to the head of the organic-fertilizer field.
Re-Nuble Inc., founded by scientifically oriented business IT specialist Tinia Pina, has snagged a 2017 American Entrepreneurship Award and the $25,000 interest-free loan that accompanies it – the latest feathers in the cap of a 2015 startup that transforms food waste into fresh produce.
The American Entrepreneurship accolades are doled out by the Libra Group, an international business group containing 30 subsidiaries across several core sectors, including finance, energy, real estate and shipping. The awards program is exclusive to the borough of the Bronx and Florida’s Miami-Dade County, communities that “face disproportionate lack of opportunity,” according to the program website.
That’s similar thinking to the mindset that first set Re-Nuble in motion. Concerned equally by chemical fertilization, the massive waste of “leftover” food and the poor nutritional choices available in Harlem, where she taught an SAT prep class, Pina began researching anaerobic digesters, biological processes in which microorganisms break down biodegradable materials.
That creates both harvestable energy and a residue goop that turns out to be a plus-grade fertilizer – and a super-effective hydroponics growth accelerant.
The leftover liquid is also a rocket fuel for Pina’s primary mission to convert individual communities’ leftover consumables into a renewability-focused product promoting healthier eating within that community, all with zero environmental effect.
The innovator and her research teams have fine-tuned the science as a “virtual tenant” of Stony Brook University’s Clean Energy Business Incubator Program and an actual tenant of the Harlem Biospace biotechnology incubator. Re-Nuble outgrew the uptown incubator in the fall of 2015 and split its operations in two – formulation in a large Long Island City-based shipping container, front office in the Brooklyn Navy Yard industrial park.
Neither of those locations are in the Bronx, obviously, but Re-Nuble was close enough: The $25,000 capital infusion will be used primarily to deepen the biotech’s longtime connection with Baldor Specialty Foods, a regional distributor based in the South Bronx’s Hunts Point section.
In fact, the award was granted with the specific understanding that at least part of the $25,000 loan would be used to co-locate some Re-Nuble operations at Baldor’s distribution center – something “we haven’t had the working capital to do sooner,” Pina noted.
Such forward thinking (and geographic preferences) perfectly match the sentiment behind the American Entrepreneurship Award, according to awards program CEO Christopher Upperman, who said Re-Nuble and the other AEA winners “remind us of the importance in continuing to work on their behalf.”
“Hearing their inspiring entrepreneurial journey, I’m reminded why more emphasis should be placed on communities such as the Bronx,” Upperman said in a statement. “There are eager business owners and those with aspirations to become successful business owners in communities … all throughout the United States who will take advantage of continued support and additional resources, if offered.
“I commend each of the finalists, and certainly the winners, for their commitment to serving the Bronx and building successful businesses in the process.”
The other Bronx-area AEA winners include Duro UAS, which manufactures drone systems, sensors and components for marine-based industries; NoLogo Backpacks, focused on wearable technology for students, cyclists and pedestrians; Spadét, which is modernizing a 19th century extra virgin olive oil formula into a line of safe and sustainable skin, body and hair products; and Sustainable Snacks, a natural-foods company serving up gluten-free, vegan dark chocolate treats packed with plant-based protein, Omega-3s and fiber.
In addition to the $25,000 interest-free loan from Libra Group, winners receive business support including legal, accounting, communications and IT consultancy services. Each is also assigned a business mentor to provide guidance through the startup and early developmental stages.
While Re-Nuble is several steps beyond the typical startup stage – and gaining speed fast – Pina said she expects the advice to come in handy as she continues to fine-tune her growth-accelerant formulas and expand her product line.
The $25,000 capital infusion, she added, will also help the B2B enterprise – Re-Nuble sells primarily to specialty retailers, with some direct-to-farm business – expand its market horizons.
One key objective sure to offer a bottom-line boost is third-party organic certification, and “part of the $25,000 will definitely go toward that endeavor,” according to Pina.
The entrepreneur is also aligning her enterprise with Cornell Cooperative Extension researchers and “definitely” plans to continue leveraging SBU’s laboratory resources through Re-Nuble’s ongoing CEBIP affiliation.
“We’re B2B and we’re not deviating from that,” Pina told Innovate LI. “What we want to do right now is strengthen the efficiency of our products and get more published research.”
And while teams of scientists maximize the hydroponics growth formulas to deliver exacting nutrient levels during plants’ changeable growth cycles and otherwise tinker with the delicate intricacies of microbial science, they’ll also investigate some “deodorizing” options, according to Pina, who senses another important step in the commercialization process.
“On the hydroponics side, which is a soilless system, the vegetative growth comes from the nitrogen,” she said. “And the nitrogen comes from a fish hydrolysate.
“Not everyone has the tolerance.”