AgriForValor Business Models for a Circular Bioeconomy at the Guinness Enterprise Centre, Dublin

12th April 2018

Published on 20-04-2018 12:59:21 by AGRIFORVALOR

CakePHP The AgriForValor Irish Hub held an event on new Business Models for a Circular Bioeconomy at the Guinness Enterprise Centre in Dublin on the 12th April 2018.

The event opened with a presentation from James Gaffey of Institute of Technology Tralee (ITT) highlighting that a business-as-usual, linear economy approach will not resolve the challenges set out in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and that a new approach is required. A number of business models and international and national case studies, were highlighted demonstrating a shift towards a circular bioeconomy. Breda O’Dwyer of ITT, then introduced a new circular business model canvas which can be used to design, plan, challenge and pivot a business model, taking into account circular principles.

The audience then heard from four speakers, each providing a case study of their circular or biobased enterprise. The case studies covered a broad range of examples from large enterprises to social enterprises, from biodegradable plastics and waste to resource, to upcycling. Eamonn Tighe, EU Business Development Manager for Natureworks told the story of Natureworks Ingeo biodegradable PLA. Eamonn discussed the three eras of biopolymers; in the 1990s the focus was on the environmental benefits of biodegradability, the 2000s saw a greater focus on carbon sequestration, whereas in recent years the focus has been on product performance. The journey since first production in 1989, has seen Natureworks continuously optimise ingeo for new applications, from tea bags to rigid containers to 3D printing filament. Eamonn discussed the important role of communication, certification and “partner champions” in getting new biobased products to market.

Peter Kelly, International Commercial Director and Director of Biobased, Biodegradable Materials and Green Chems Platforms at Pharmafilter, gave an overview of the unique value proposition offered by the Pharmafilter system.  Already operational in 5 EU Hospitals, with plans to expand into the Irish market, Pharmafilter integrates biodegradable products with energy recovery and wastewater treatment. In the hospital, each ward is provided with a Tonto shredder that can process all biodegradable waste which are in high use, such as food disposables, dishes, as well as the bioplastic urinals and bed pans. The shredded waste is transported via the sewage system, together with all the waste water, to a special building outside of the hospital where solid waste and waste water is treated together. The combined waste stream is first collected in a pit, followed by a separator to split up the solid waste and the waste water. The solid waste is digested in an anaerobic reactor to produce biogas. The waste water is treated in a multi-stage process, including a membrane bioreactor, membrane ultrafiltration and ozone filtration. To ensure the removal of all micro pollutants, including pharmaceutical residues and bacteria, the final stage is a combined active carbon and ultraviolet filtration. The water can be re-used in the hospital. The integrated waste and waste water solution that the Pharmafilter system provides is the unique value proposition, but it comes with additional benefits, including reducing carbon footprint and reducing infections.

Enda Buckley, Sustainability Projects Manager at Carbery gave an insight into the long established dairy Co-operative Biorefinery in west Cork, Ireland. Carbery is owned by its suppliers, over one thousand milk suppliers in the Cork region, therefore all the benefits of creating value goes back to these suppliers. Enda discussed the various projects that Carbery have initiated with farmers to ensure sustainability is a high priority. There include, the Carbery, tree growing project, where all farmers were provided with native Irish trees to grow on their land, and the Digital Story Telling Initiative which allows Carbery farmers to document and disseminate their sustainability experiences. Sustainability is a key part of the Carbery ethos, and all suppliers are accredited by the Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme. Enda introduced the Carbery process, a unique process producing ethanol from whey permeate resulting from cheese and protein production. This indigenously sourced bioethanol is 85% less carbon intensive than petrol when used as a transport fuel, making a significant contribution to Carbery’s own sustainability but also providing a key contribution to helping Ireland meet it’s 2020 transport targets.

The final speaker was Dr. Sarah Miller, CEO of the Rediscovery Centre, a national Circular Economy Centre of Excellence in Ballymun. Sarah discussed the emergence of the centre as part of a Ballymun regeneration drive in the early 2000s. The centre provides a creative space connecting people, ideas and resources, education and training on sustainable principles to all ages.  The centre includes 4 circular economy social enterprises focused on upcycling –

Rediscover Furniture: established in 2008, produces 100% redesigned, repurposed, and recycled fashion, accessories, and home-ware ranges

Rediscover Cycling: has been putting life back into unwanted bicycles since 2010. Bikes are donated for reuse and are revamped and sold in the Rediscovery Centre Eco Store

Rediscover Fashion: boasts exceptional skills and courses in upcycling and restoration all while rescuing furniture destined for landfills

Rediscover Paint: collects paint from the public via contacts with recycling centres and reuses it through a community membership programme. The aim of the programme is to divert paint from disposal/incineration and provide affordable paint for reuse to local residents and community organizations

Building on the talks of the speakers, focusing on different elements of a business, from value proposition, to route-to-market, to upcycling, a workshop using the circular economy business canvas was held in the afternoon in which participants used the circular canvas to work through cases studies and develop business models for potential circular bioeconomy SME’s.


After the workshop a panel discussion took place to identify areas of funding, support and scale up for circular bioeconomy initiatives. The panellists included;

Patrick Barrett – National Contact Point on Horizon 2020 incl. Biobased Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU)

Kieran Furlong – leads Finistere Ventures EU offices, a Venture Capitalist firm investing in the Agtech Space

Niamh Sterling – consultant with Halo Business Angel Network, a network of Angel Investors

Joanne Sheahan – technical advisor with Enterprise Ireland’s Research and Innovation Fund

After initial Q&A in which all panels gave an overview of the supports or opportunities offered, questions were asked by participants on issues such as funding and scale-up opportunities. Panelists also addressed the key opportunity areas they see for the Irish Bioeconomy, including the opportunity to address supply chain issues by focusing on higher value biobased products.

This first-of-its-kind Business Models for the Circular Bioeconomy workshop, provided interesting engagement between different actors within the space, diverse insights from different types of enterprise, and key inputs from experts at different points on the value chain. It also provided a good opportunity to evaluate an alternative approach to existing linear business models, and an opportunity to trial a circular business model canvas.

AgriForValor would like to thank all our excellent speakers and panellists, and all participants on the day. Presentations from the different speakers can be found below.

James Gaffey: Circular Bioeconomy Business Models

Eamonn Tighe: Natureworks Ingeo PLA Getting Biobased Products to Market

Peter Kelly: PharmaFilter Finding the Value in Biobased Industries

Enda Buckley: Carbery an Irish Cooperative Biorefinery

Sarah Miller: Rediscovery Centre of Excellence Circular Economy