Ann Arbor startup, Ecovia Renewables, aims to create compostable diapers

Recent seed funding helps the young biotech company toward its goal

By Sarah M. Parlette - Associated Producer

Ecovia Renewables co-founder Jeremy Minty with AzuraGel. Credit | Evan Dougherty - University of Michigan Engineering Communications & Marketing

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - With a recent round of funding, Ann Arbor startup, Ecovia Renewables, is one step closer to helping parents buy compostable diapers.

The startup, the members of which are predominately University of Michigan graduates and faculty, is on a mission to use microbes to make more environmentally friendly materials for things like disposable diapers or skin care. Recently, Ecovia Renewables received $500,000 from the U-M and gained a total of $1.6 million in seed funding. 

Credit| Evan Dougherty/Michigan Engineering Communications & Marketing

The biotechnology company uses a bio-based polymer that traps water and has been turned into the company's AzuraGel -- a gel that could be added to diapers so as to make them more biodegradable. The gel, which starts as a powder, transforms into something gel-like as it absorbs water. As it degrades, it leaves nothing harmful behind to be left in landfills. This is a huge game-changer as AzuraGel can absorb as much as the synthetic polymer commonly found in diapers now and doesn't leak when pressure, such as a child's body weight, is applied.  

Introducing AzuraGel into disposable diapers may not only lessen the amount of rotting mountains of nappies found in landfills but creates a more affordable option to parents than current environmentally friendly diapers. 

The stages of the AzuraGel bio-based polymer. Credit | Evan Dougherty - University of Michigan Engineering Communications & Marketing

But Ecovia Renewables also sees other options for its microbial manufacturing and products. One option is making more eco-friendly cosmetics, and the biotech company has paired with, and received funding from, Seppic Inc., a cosmetics company, to explore skin care options. The startup has also worked with the Michigan Invests in New Technology Startups program and the National Science Foundation I-Corps program as it developed its super-absorbents. 

For more news about Ecovia Renewables or to see its products, team members or partners, check out its website. 

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