I am Catarina, PhD & entrepreneur with an Environmental Engineering background. I belong to a disruptive generation that lives in a constantly changing environment and is willing to bring its innovative inputs and ideas to transform agrifood in a better and resilient sector.
Keeping in mind the circular economy approach, during my PhD research, I embraced field/laboratory experiences that transformed my perception of how many valuable by-products from biomass application and forest practices are under-valued, with huge potential for novel horticultural substrates and agrochemicals. I've always had the ambition to look beyond applied research to market application with sustainability as the main pillar. Recently, I founded an early stage start-up with a focus on the market segment of professional growers using alternative wood and fiber-based substrates - FiberGlob. From this experience onwards, the take home message which I will apply in the future is the essential collaboration between research, industry and costumer needs; there is no innovation and sustainable growth without synchronising and learning with all parties.
FiberGlob is an organic peat replacement in horticultural substrate formulation for healthy plant production made from biomass waste-stream from cleaning & maintenance of Lisbon's green areas. This product will help growers to produce quality plants & decrease environmental footprint of their activity, and simultaneously, promotes waste-flow recirculation within agrifood value chain. In an increasingly uncertain world, the horticultural growers started to be guided by 4R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle and recover) resource approach. These principles are applied when choosing new materials and account for their availability on the market, innovative and sustainable approach as well as financial viability. The FiberGlob is made from local biomass waste-stream converted into cheap, lighter, tailor-made, easy-to-use, organic and sustainable substrate. The grower adds FiberGlob in desired volumetric proportions according to crop/plant needs. This novel solution increases quality, productivity, and gradually reduces dependence on peat for an easy and safe transition to sustainable horticultural practices.
The idea for the project started a year ago during the PhD developments and was adapted based on project's objectives. The R&D phase of the project was validated, the proof-of-concept already exists and was successfully tested. The project is ready for the next stage: piloting (prototype for scale up). Meanwhile, the starting market validation was successfully established (end of 2019) after winning 1st prize of the Global Food Venture Programme 2019 - promising entrepreneur prize for PhD students of the EIT Food business creation programme.
MOTIVATION FOR AND COMMITMENT TO CREATING A BETTER AND MORE SUSTAINABLE PLANET
As Humans are part of ecosystems, we must play the role in (re)design the economy to enhance sustainability of planet. I believe that future must focus on developing new solutions to transform from the traditional “produce-use-dispose” into circular bioeconomy. I am committed to tackle the urgent need to replace peat using local biomass by-products applying circular economy as a driving-force for global changes = FiberGlob.
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