WAYZATA, MINN., and KING OF PRUSSIA, PA. — A proprietary, water-based technology from Renmatix, Inc. turns feedstocks into upcycled material, or more valuable material. Bill Gates has invested in the company and its technology, and a former governor of Pennsylvania serves as a Renmatix executive.
Now, Cargill will work with Renmatix to investigate how the technology, called the Plantrose process, might create upcycled food ingredients. Minneapolis-based Cargill and King of Prussia-based Renmatix on Dec. 12 announced they have signed a joint development agreement in which the two companies will use the technology and Cargill’s preferred feedstocks to make functional food ingredients from unused plant materials. Cargill will contribute its food applications expertise and market access. Testing will take place at a Renmatix facility in Kennesaw, Ga., as well as at Cargill facilities.
“Obviously, Cargill is a world-renown leader in functional food ingredients,” said Mike Hamilton, chief executive officer of Renmatix. “They have a wide presence in the industry today, kind of feeding the world. So for Renmatix to be able to deploy its technology alongside Cargill’s interests is obviously something we were excited to announce. We are thrilled we have this joint development agreement with Cargill.”
The Plantrose process combines heat, water and pressure to extract key substances from unused plant feedstocks. Yusuf Wazirzada, global texturizers and specialties strategic marketing lead for Cargill, said the technology interested Cargill for three main reasons. One, it turns a wide range of plant-based material into upcycled material. The material and feedstocks Cargill will experiment with in the joint development agreement for now will stay confidential for competitive reasons, he said. Two, the water-based technology has more clean label aspects than certain other technologies used to created upcycled material. Three, the Plantrose process should lead to new functionalities for the food ingredients.
The joint research of Cargill and Renmatix shows commercial promise and should lead to the construction of a manufacturing facility for upcycled ingredients, he said. The location of a facility would depend on what feedstocks Cargill chooses to use.
Renmatix already offers a functional food ingredient called Nouravant. The Plantrose process turns maple fiber into Nouravant. The residue maple chips normally are burned for thermal value or disposed, Mr. Hamilton said. Benefits of Nouravant are its use in gluten-free products and its ability to replace eggs, oils and chemically modified food ingredients.
“It acts as a very strong emulsifier, which is a very important part of most food groups,” Mr. Hamilton said of Nouravant. “In the case of bakery specifically, we’re able to take out emulsifiers which are currently used. For example, in large industrial settings people often use mono- and diglycerides to get the emulsification benefits. We’ve shown that can be replaced using Nouravant as an emulsifier.”
The joint development agreement with Cargill will not affect Nouravant, Mr. Hamilton said.
“We’re selling Nouravant as we speak,” he said. “The joint development agreement deals with other matters.”
Other examples of feedstocks are agricultural residues such as corn stover (stalks, leaves and cobs that remain in the field after the corn harvest), cane bagasse, grasses that can be used for energy, and woody plants. Besides the food industry, products derived from Plantrose may be used in cosmetics, paints and fuels.
Renmatix has had an eventful decade. Mr. Hamilton joined the company in 2010, a year before the company unveiled the Plantrose process. Mark S. Schweiker, senior vice-president, corporate development officer, joined the company in 2012. His term as governor of Pennsylvania ended in 2003, and he also served as c.e.o. and president of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.
In 2015, the Plantrose process won the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge sponsored by the White House and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In 2016, Renmatix received a $14 million investment led by Mr. Gates.
Consumer interest in sustainability issues like upcycled ingredients bodes well for the joint development agreement with Cargill.
“As a society, we need to repurpose and reuse materials as efficiently as we can, and upcycling in this case makes a lot of sense,” Mr. Hamilton said.