July 17, 2019

Genera gets funding for agricultural-based food packaging plant in Tennessee

Genera has secured more than $118 million in a new investment for an initial manufacturing facility to produce its Earthable line of sustainable agricultural fiber products.

Genera will use locally grown grasses and other agricultural crops to make compostable foodservice packaging products, such as plates, bowls and takeout containers at its new manufacturing facility in Vonore, Tennessee. In addition to making products that are a sustainable alternative to plastics and polystyrene (Styrofoam-type products), Earthable fibers are also used to produce a wide array of towel, tissue, cupstock and other paper products. Earthable will be the largest fully integrated, domestic solution for ag-based fiber and food-grade packaging in the United States, designed to meet the growing, consumer-driven demands for more eco-friendly products in the food and consumer industries.

“With this new investment, we can begin to answer the increasing demand for environmentally conscious solutions with a truly farm-to-table product made in America,” said Kelly Tiller, president and CEO of Genera. “We’re excited about the new revenue stream we can offer our local farmers. Our Earthable plant-based paper and packaging products really resonate with consumers. We are passionate about delivering sustainability improvements to the marketplace while making positive impacts in rural economies.”

Switchgrass-, sorghum-based fibers

The fibers are derived from locally grown high-yield, conservation crops like switchgrass and biomass sorghum. Genera has already begun to work with eastern Tennessee farmers to produce the feedstock it will use in its new manufacturing facility. The company will continue to seek additional farm partners in the region.

TennEra LLC, an affiliate of the University of Tennessee Research Foundation (UTRF), has leased its former biorefinery in Vonore to Genera for the development of the facility.

Genera’s fiber production facility is expected to be ready to deliver products to the marketplace in 2020, initially bringing 80 new jobs to Vonore. The company will begin hiring in early 2020, including skilled operators and maintenance positions. Even before the Vonore facility begins operations, customer demand for its products has the company looking at options to increase production capacity at the Vonore facility potentially increasing total employment by 50%.

The financing was anchored by an equity investment from WindSail Capital Group, a growth capital investor specializing in sustainability and energy innovation. WindSail partnered with investors Coppermine Capital and Stairway Capital in the Genera financing.

For more, visit Genera’s website.