Genecis team member Kaitlyn Chow holds up some granules of PHA plastic produced by the company’s process. (Photo: Tyler Irving)
Genecis team member Kaitlyn Chow holds up some granules of PHA plastic produced by the company’s process. (Photo: Tyler Irving)
Friday, September 29 - 2017
Don Campbell and Tyler Irving

A company started by a U of T Scarborough student that converts food waste into bioplastics has won another major prize.

Genecis, started by environmental science student Luna Yu, took top prize at the recent Hatchery Demo Day earlier this month at U of T Engineering.

Restaurants throw away a lot of food, and that costs money. In fact, large-chain, full-service restaurants can pay tens of thousands of dollars each year just to dispose of their food waste in landfills. Genecis has a solution that is both greener and less costly.

“We turn restaurant food waste into bioplastics,” said Yu, Founder and CEO of Genecis. “We make money from both the collection fees we charge to the restaurants, and from the bioplastics and compost we produce from them.”

The company has enjoyed a recent string of success in start-up competitions having placed second in the RBC Prize for Innovation and Entrepreneurship competition, and taking top prize in The Hub’s Start-up Competition, both earlier this year.

Because they are recovering value from food waste, Genecis believes they will be able to charge lower collection fees than typical waste disposal companies, while enabling restaurant owners to feel good about where their waste goes. The company has done extensive testing in the lab, and the funding they earned at Hatchery Demo Day will enable them to build a 1,000-litre pilot bioreactor to test the process at a larger scale.

“The Hatchery really helped us hone our business models and point us in the right direction in terms of what we should focus on,” said Yu. “I honestly don’t think we would be in the position we are today without them.”

Genecis team members at the Hatchery Day Demo competition
Left to right: Marcos Ingreja, Walter Pawliw, Bowen Li, Hasitha de Alwis, Robert Fairley, Luna Yu and Kaitlyn Chow are the members of Team Genecis. They won the $20,000 Lacavera Prize at this year’s Hatchery Demo Day (Photo: Tyler Irving)

Demo Day is the culmination of The Hatchery Nest program, a four-month accelerator which pairs student teams with experienced mentors — including executives, lawyers, medical professionals and engineers — to develop their businesses. They receive detailed feedback on their business plans, explore their proposed market, learn about patents and marketing and build prototypes using 3D printers and other fabrication resources.

Twelve companies pitched their vision to a room of judges, investors and faculty members at the fifth annual Hatchery Demo Day, held September 6 at U of T Engineering.

“Five years after we founded the Hatchery, the spirit of entrepreneurship continues to be the engine of all that we do,” said Joseph Orozco, executive director of The Entrepreneurship Hatchery, in his opening remarks.

“We nurture the mindset for entrepreneurial thinking, and we have seeded the ideas that I believe will transform our society. Together, we are building the Canada of tomorrow.”