Turning watermelon waste into biodegradable plastics is the plan for a new company based in Indiana called AgroRenew. This week, they’re now one step closer to starting production.

“The demand for this product is so intense right now that everything that we can make is going to go,” says Brian Southern, who co-founded AgroRenew with his wife Katie last year.

On Wednesday, the company is officially breaking ground on its new $83 million facility south of Vincennes in southwestern Indiana.

The facility will be a total of 196,000-square feet and cover more than 20 acres. More than 250 career opportunities will be available at the new facility.

In addition to watermelon waste, the company also plans to use the waste of cantaloupes and pumpkins to convert into eco-friendly bioplastics.

Brian says customers are already lined up to buy the product—as soon as it can be made.

“We’ll be testing product during the first quarter of 2025, so as we’re testing equipment and finalizing our processes, our product demand is so high that our customers are saying that they will buy our test product,” he says. “By the end of 2025, that facility will be closer to production capacity.”

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A rendering of the new AgroRenew manufacturing facility that is being built south of Vincennes. Graphic courtesy of the Knox County Indiana Economic Development Corporation.

Just how did Brian and Katie Southern come up with the idea of converting watermelon waste into bioplastics?

“Working with the local farmers, we started to figure out there was a significant amount of watermelon waste, so we started to do some experimentation and figured out that there are chemical properties that exist in the watermelon that can be used as one of the ingredients that we can actually make a 100-percent biodegradable plastic,” he says.

“My wife, Katie, is a food scientist, so she understands all the chemical properties. With my experience in chemical engineering, we were able to work together and come up with biodegradable plastics.”

In addition to building a new manufacturing facility, the company will also set up a Bioplastics Innovation Center and hire research scientists to develop new innovations.

“We’re openly collaborating with other plastics industry companies, as well as scientists from across the world and from the universities,” he says. “We will be working jointly together on developing new innovation by having that Bioplastics Innovation Center right here, it’s going to create some huge opportunities.”

For more information about AgroRenew, visit AgroRenew.org.

Click BELOW to hear the full conversation with co-founder Brian Southern as he shares the story of AgroRenew.

AgroRenew LLC
AgroRenew founders Brian and and Katie Southern, along with officials from the City of Vincennes, the Knox County Indiana Economic Development Corporation, and The Pantheon announced AgroRenew’s $83 million facility that will convert waste from Indiana’s watermelon and pumpkin industries into biodegradable plastics. Photo courtesy of the Knox County Indiana Economic Development Corporation.

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