Ecovia Renewables Inc. (Michigan, US) has announced that it has received a $500,000 Phase IIB Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to expand the scope of their current NSF Phase II proposal.
The title of the proposal is "SBIR Phase II: Efficient Production of a High Performance and Eco-Friendly Superabsorbent Microbial Biopolymer for Hygiene Applications.” Ecovia Renewables will utilize its microbial fermentation process and downstream capabilities to develop low-cost, high-performing Ecovia biopolymer products for use in agricultural and horticultural applications.
“There is a significant unmet need for high-performing, biodegradable superabsorbents in agriculture and horticulture,” says Dr. Jeremy Minty, President of Ecovia Renewables and Primary Investigator on the grant. “Superabsorbents have been shown to improve water retention in soils and growing media and can reduce watering requirements, particularly in drought-stricken areas.”
Superabsorbent polymers (“SAPs”) are used in a variety of applications, from hygiene to agriculture to packaging, and are primarily composed of petrochemical-based synthetic polymers like polyacrylate and polyacrylamide. There are growing concerns with the use of petrochemical-based SAPs, particularly acrylamide, classified by the EPA as a Group B2 probable human carcinogen and included on California’s Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to cause cancer and/or reproductive toxicity. Despite this, they remain ubiquitous in many consumer products for their low-cost, stability, and functionality.
Due to global challenges arising from water scarcity and the environmental and regulatory impacts from accumulating synthetic plastics in the environment, biobased and biodegradable Ecovia Biopolymers offer an eco-friendly solution while remaining functional and cost-effective.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) awards nearly $190 million annually to startups and small businesses through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)/Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program, transforming scientific discovery into products and services with commercial and societal impact.