U-M Grad Students Add Startup Company ReGenerate to School Duties

1/13/11

It began in 2009 as a project among University of Michigan graduate students to find alternative uses for food waste. Now it’s a company called ReGenerate Solutions, which might be one of the hottest new startups in Southeast Michigan.

ReGenerate took the top prize for the student track of December’s Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition—which was promoted as the largest business plan contest in the world—with its plan to provide organic food waste digesters for large cafeterias and supermarkets. The startup’s founders, who incorporated their venture last month, rose to the top of nearly 300 student teams that entered the competition.

But there are new challenges ahead for ReGenerate, according to co-founder Hunt Briggs, who heads business development for the startup while completing his dual MBA and master’s degree in environmental science in Ann Arbor. The group needs to complete testing of an early prototype of its digester at Michigan State University, advance development of a commercial-scale model of the system, and strengthen ties with potential customers, Briggs says.

It’s likely going to be a lot of work to shake up how facilities manage food waste. Rather than have its customers ship uneaten food to landfills, ReGenerate wants them to put certain waste into on-site digester. The digester is being designed to convert discarded food into biogas, which can be combusted right at the facility for heating water. The leftovers of that process would be used to make compost. The group is now addressing questions about how these systems will fit with busy cafeteria and grocery store operations, where employees are used to chucking food waste into dumpsters.

“What we’re going to have to do is work with customers to enable our unit to be practical for them. We can’t just come in and drop the thing off and say, ‘Good luck,’” Briggs says. “We actually have to work with them to see how we can integrate with their operations.”

To support its nascent operations, ReGenerate got some help through a … Next Page »

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