This story comes to us from Bioenterprise
Every week, 52 weeks a year, the Highline Mushrooms plant in Ontario’s Prince Edward County discards 600 tonnes of spent mushroom compost. And while local farmers are happy to use the nutrient-‐rich waste as fertilizer, that’s only a seasonal activity.
So Highline turned to Cennatek. The London, Ontario company has developed technology to extract minerals from biomass — including the wheat straw in mushroom compost — and turn them into high-‐value liquid fertilizer.
Cennatek founder and president Mohammad Rahbari lists the advantages of their product: long shelf life, good stability, no organic contaminants or microbes, and competitive pricing.
Best of all, recycling non-‐renewable minerals makes good environmental sense.
“Your nitrogen comes from petrochemical processes,” he explains. “Your potash is mined. So is your phosphate rock and so on.”
It started when Rahbari, a chemical engineer, began investigating the possibility of creating fuel pellets from crop residues and other agricultural biomass. He quickly discovered that it required removing most of the potassium, phosphorus and other minerals, abundant in agricultural feedstocks. And if you remove them, you might as well turn them into something useful.
Rahbari got to work. Lab experiments and field trials proved highly successful, but setting up a pilot commercialization plant would require $1.4 million.
While Rahbari could design chemical processes without breaking a sweat, wooing investors was a whole different ballgame.
That’s where Bioenterprise came in.
The agri-‐business accelerator knew exactly how to put together due diligence packages. They helped secure initial funding for marketing and legal costs. They conducted regulatory research and introduced Cennatek to investor groups.
“Bioenterprise was very crucial to us in a number of ways,” Rahbari says.
On April 1, 2014, Cennatek cemented a deal with Highline Mushrooms to establish a processing facility in Prince Edward County. At full capacity, the plant will produce four million litres of liquid fertilizer a year and employ 20 people.
While Rahbari will be up to his neck in mushroom compost in the near future, he sees plenty of potential to apply Cennatek’s technology to different feedstocks down the line.
“What excites me the most is the wide-‐scale opportunities,” he says.
“We see ourselves building multiple facilities that would be able to take local sources of biomass and bio-‐waste and convert them into high value products, creating local jobs and economic activity, starting right here in Ontario,” he says.