Bygen to rehabilitate the world's agricultural pollution by sourcing activated carbon from waste
Bygen was created by two smart PhD students who developed a way to transform agricultural waste (think almond shells) into a valuable product.
Of course, there are other options, but the magic here is that they create a really valuable product, which most people (including me) have never heard of before, called activated carbon. Well, it turns out that this product is used as a filter in a whole bunch of industries from water treatment to food manufacturing and is a $15bn+ market growing at 15%+ pa. The additional benefit is that their process is much more precise so they can make the size of the holes in their “sponge” tailored to the specific application. As an example, the activated carbon they make can remove PFAS (a toxic and carcinogenic fire fighting chemical), which is a big contamination problem, from the soil and water near homes. Finally, the cherry on the cake is that this is a carbon negative process. Activated carbon is a highly specialised and upgraded form of biochar (ie charcoal) that sequesters carbon for a very long time (thousands of years) and producing it from organic waste (rather than traditionally coal) at lower temperatures all makes this a really climate beneficial solution.
In terms of progress, they have been running a pilot plant for over a year that has proven the process and the quality. They are in the final stretch of JV opportunities to run plants that will produce at scale. Beyond that, the model is to license the technology and make it hyper scalable as 90% of the equipment is readily available at very cost competitive prices. The smarts and controls become a plug and play add-on. Any producers of large quantities of waste (forestry, agricultural, food, plastics) are a viable licensee.
Variety of potential clients from:
Companies with waste: growers cooperatives, agricultural processors, forestry companies, farmers, and even plastic recycling companies
Companies producing activated carbon that want to do it in a carbon negative and cheaper way
Manufacturers of pyrolysis equipment and producers of biochar and charcoal
End users of activated carbon that want to vertically integrate
Slow process to get the first plant finalised, but have jumped through most of the hurdles on that front, so focus is now on scaling.
So many beneficial impacts:
A lot of agricultural waste gets burned (the single largest source of black carbon emissions) and the majority of activated carbon is made from coal (4+ million tonnes of CO2 per year)
Activated Carbon is often produced in developing countries with exploitative conditions
Farmers can make money from their waste
Activated carbon end users can get access to higher quality products produced in a sustainable way
Team: Doers and achievers
Product: Proven at medium size and ready to scale
Market: $15bn and growing
Momentum: lots of unsolicited demand for their product
Impact: very significant for climate and growers/farmers