Hocosto (Achtmaal), Lightyear (Helmond), Morphotonics (Veldhoven), Flow.ai (Tilburg) and PeelPioneers (Son) are the first winners of the Brabant Startup Awards. The prizes were presented on 25 September in Tilburg. The Brabant Startup Awards are an initiative of Innovation Origins, in collaboration with BOM Brabant Ventures. In a short series, we highlight the winners of the awards. Today: PeelPioneers.

Whether you go into town for breakfast or have lunch in your own kitchen, the juicer is never far away. And where juice machines are, there are bins full of orange peels. With a bit of luck, they end up in green waste, but even that is sometimes too much to ask. In collaboration with Renewi, PeelPioneers collects citrus waste and processes it into oils for use in food and animal feed. Recently, one and a half million has been raised via three major funders (BOM, ABN Amro, Stichting DOEN). The three PeelPioneers founders did not have to share ownership for this. The jury of the Brabant Startup Awards said it admires the infectious enthusiasm with which the company has managed to take concrete steps and has won the trust of the necessary partners.

With a bit of luck you’ve already come across them here and there: in addition to the grey and green waste bins, there’s also an orange version. Waste processor Renewi from Son has supplied them to companies where many citrus fruits are processed, currently mainly supermarkets, restaurants and cafés. Renewi is already testing with it. The orange peels collected in it go directly to the company in Son, where startup PeelPioneers is setting up its own factory. “On Renewi’s premises, but entirely our own”, says co-founder Sytze van Stempvoort of PeelPioneers.

“Logistically, this is just the smartest thing: sustainable and cheap, this way there is not one meter too much of transport. Renewi still makes that round every day, the only difference is that they process an extra waste stream. We have signed a contract with them for the delivery of 40,000 kilos of peelings per day. In our factory, which will open at the beginning of November, we process it into essential oil for the food industry and fibre-rich pulp for livestock farming.”

Not only is delivery arranged, PeelPioneers does not have to worry about customers either for the time being. “The sales for the first twelve months are already complete.” One of the customers is Tristar, a cleaning company from Roosendaal. “They are going to produce cleaning products based on our oils. Just imagine: a supermarket that supplies us with their waste peels is then cleaned with the same peels! Because it is so beautiful, we even built a separate website for it: Van Schil Naar Schoon. I can really enjoy that.”

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Van Stempvoort likes to call himself ‘the peel collector of the 21st century’ and does so very conscious. “It immediately clarifies what we do: we turn yesterday’s orange peel into tomorrow’s products. That appeals to everybody’s imagination.”

In a test set-up in Amsterdam – where two of the three founders come from – it has already been proven that the process is feasible. “The technology works, so that’s great. Now it comes down to production. In our new factory we can process up to 5,000 kilos per hour; so we can easily handle the 40,000 kilos that we are guaranteed to receive.”

Van Stempvoort, who recently moved to Eindhoven, sees the next steps not only in the expansion of the range (more peelings), but also in a diversification of the products. “Now we have two main products, it’s our goal to build the technology to also extract other products from the peelings. We want to be a company that makes high quality functional ingredients for the food industry. Not consumer products, but raw materials. The oils that PeelPioneers is now going to make can be used as flavourings or fragrances, for example. The remaining pulp is mainly intended for animal feed.”

Competition

For Peelpioneers, competition is present on two fronts: in the supply market and in the sales market. “It may sound crazy, but the fermentation and incineration furnaces that are now attracting a lot of peels are our main competitors in the supply chain. But we can easily cope with this battle, because actually, they are not so happy with all these peels, especially because they consist for 80% of water. On the sales market, we compete mainly with companies from citrus producing countries such as Brazil, Spain, South Africa and the US, which also supply products like ours. But they take a different approach: for those companies, the fruit is the main product, for example as the basis for juices, and the skin is the remainder. Because we specialise on the peel, we can be competitive.”

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