Traditional industries such as manufacturing, construction, and materials operate in a linear economy model. The take-make-dispose approach requires extensive mining/production of fresh materials for the manufacture of new goods, leaving a trail of waste behind. Both ends of this model contribute to the massive footprint of industries including fashion, manufacturing, construction, and chemicals, to name a few.
Circular economy solutions close the loop by rerouting waste into new materials. However, startups also create newer and more sustainable loops within this framework — utilizing spent goods in new ways (reuse), extending the life of existing goods (repair), breaking down used goods to utilize their components (remanufacture), and turning them into new goods (recycle).
Even though circular solutions improve sustainability, the origin of many of these products, such as plastics or textiles, lies at non-renewable and polluting sources. The circular bioeconomy addresses this gap. Biomass, for example, presents as a renewable and cleaner source for the production of circular materials. The circular bioeconomy is a conceptual framework that seeks to leverage renewable biomass to drive the circular economy as well as improve the overall sustainability of industries and the well-being of ecosystems.
At StartUs Insights, we routinely look into emerging solutions that impact companies and individuals globally. To discover emerging Circular Bioeconomy solutions, we used our proprietary Big Data and AI-powered StartUs Insights Discovery Platform to scan the technologies of over 2 million startups & scaleups globally with just one click. By using the platform’s advanced search feature, we are able to narrow down our search scope effectively, thus mapping the circular bioeconomy landscape and generating valuable insights.
Global Startup Heat Map reveals the Geo Distribution of 1.102 Startups advancing the Circular Bioeconomy
Let’s take a look at the global geographic distribution of 1.102 circular bioeconomy startups & scaleups we identified using the StartUs Insights Platform. The Global Startup Heat Map below gives you a clear picture of where the major startup & tech hubs are and reveals up-and-coming regions that show significant activity.
You can see that startups working on circular bioeconomy technologies are primarily located in Europe. In the US, we see major hubs in Boston (MA) and San Francisco (CA). A high number of circular bioeconomy startups & scaleups also operate from Israel, India, and Singapore.
Circular Bioeconomy relies on Ecosystem Services
For the circular bioeconomy to flourish, healthy ecosystems are a must. Conversely, bioeconomy solutions enable the sustainable utilization of ecosystems. For instance, traditional agriculture leads to deforestation, whereas circular agroforestry solutions combine food production with maintaining biodiversity. Healthy ecosystems provide the biomass and the biodiversity for bioeconomy applications spanning biotech, food, and healthcare. The transition from looking at ecosystems as commodities without any thought to human well-being to services that further the well-being of humans and biodiversity is advancing the bioeconomy. Moreover, other circular bioeconomy solutions such as aquaculture and regenerative agriculture are remediating and restoring degraded ecosystems.
US Startup TrueAlgae offers Algae Production Tech
US-based startup TrueAlgae develops a closed-loop algae production technology. It cultivates algae in modular vertical photobioreactors. The photobioreactors use sunlight to grow algae fast, providing an alternative to harvesting them from water sources. TrueAlgae’s microalgae find applications in agriculture, food, and materials. By scalably growing algae in bioreactors with a low footprint, it lowers the emissions in the production of these materials.
Biomass as a Renewable Feedstock
Traditionally, the biotech industry has largely utilized two kinds of biomass, namely forestry biomass and biofuel crops. While the former is now known to be carbon positive, the latter competes with food crops for arable land. For sustainable growth of the bioeconomy, startups are investigating alternative biomass sources. Some of these include agricultural and food waste, seaweed, and insects. All three advance the circular economy by converting waste into valuable resources such as energy, agrochemicals, or food. Moreover, growing algae or insects requires less energy and land to grow as compared to traditional biomass sources, making them more scalable as well.
New approaches such as photobioreactors and vertical insect farming further improve scalability and, thus, sustainability. Other startups utilize fermentation and microbes to scale biomass-derived manufacturing.
UK BioTech Startup Better Origin upcycles Food Waste
Better Origin is a British biotech startup that upcycles food waste. Better Origin X1, the startup’s bioconversion unit, uses black soldier flies to convert food waste into animal feed. It uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to analyze larvae feeding and health to optimize conversion. In addition to promoting a circular food system, it lowers emissions by preventing deforestation.
Bioproducts offer Sustainable Alternatives to Fossil-derived Products
Startups reuse, recycle, or convert all other kinds of biomass into circular materials and products. These include the transformation of organic matter from forestry biomass, agricultural residues, food waste, and wastewater to cleaner alternatives to energy, agrochemicals, ingredients, and specialized chemicals, to name a few products.
However, different bioproduction technologies provide varying efficiency, depending on the starting biomass and desired products. To maximize yields, bioeconomy startups are furthering the cascading use principle. In this paradigm, biotech solutions prioritize higher-value use cases for biomass. This means that only biomass that cannot be utilized to produce materials is used for bioenergy, with co-products wherever possible, as conversion to energy implies that the material is lost.
Portuguese Startup Spawnfoam creates Biocomposites
Spawnfoam is a Portuguese startup that develops biocomposites. It combines lignocellulosic biomass and agroforestry residues to create its materials. Spanfoam offers a range of products, including containers, pots, and construction boards. The startup’s materials are 100% biodegradable, improving sustainability and lowering the ecological footprint.
How Circular Bioeconomy furthers the United Nations 17 SDGs
Two hallmarks of almost all industrial activity over the last few centuries have been the linear economy model and the resulting degradation of the environment. Serious action to mitigate the climate emergency requires upending these two paradigms with more sustainable solutions, as outlined in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
This is where the circular bioeconomy steps in by driving sustainable alternatives to current industrial practices. As a report by the European Forest Institute suggests, “the shift to a circular biobased economic paradigm should be a long-term strategy for decoupling economic growth from environmental degradation”.
Explore some of the ways that circular bioeconomy solutions advance the UN SDGs.
German Startup Desertfoods builds Aquaponics Farms
Desertfoods is a German startup that develops aquaponics farms. It offers multi-loop aquaponic systems that grow food along with fish. These systems are customized to climate conditions, availability and type of natural resources, and commercial aspects of each project. In addition to advancing the Zero Hunger SDG, the startup’s solution furthers the SDGs for Decent Work & Economic Growth and Industry, Innovation & Infrastructure by promoting local opportunities.
US Startup Bioenergy Devco produces Bioenergy
US-based startup Bioenergy Devco designs and engineers anaerobic digestion facilities. Its systems process packaged food and post-consumer organic waste, spent fats and oils, sludge from industrial food facilities, and litter. The startup offers custom bioconversion solutions for companies, municipalities, and utilities. Its solutions enable progress towards UN SDG for Affordable & Clean Energy.
Indian Startup The Switch Fix offers Plant-based Personal Care Products
The Switch Fix is an Indian startup that offers plant-based personal care products. It uses plant-derived ingredients to replace fossil fuel-based or animal-derived ingredients generally used in traditional cosmetics. It also lowers the water consumption in the development of these products. This way, the startup’s solutions contribute to the UN SDGs for Climate Action and Life Below Water.
Find more Circular Bioeconomy Solutions
Across industries, sustainability is a growing concern for many businesses. Bio-based products offer recyclable and biodegradable alternatives with applications in materials, engineering, agriculture, and other sectors. By moving away from the take-make-dispose approach to coupling industrial growth with ecosystem preservation, circular bioeconomy adds societal value as well. Moreover, by restoring natural ecosystems and promoting decarbonization, it drives progress towards carbon-negative goals.
Regardless of your industry and the solutions you are looking for, circularity is growing in demand. By enabling you to efficiently close your loops, we empower you to take your CSR to the next level.