Durham, NC Teen Entrepreneurs Turning Pulp into Profits with Online Sustainability Platform
Navami Jain, 17, Megan Wu, 17, Michelle Bao, 17 and Vincent Xia, 18 of Durham, North Carolina are one of this year’s competitors in the i.Invest National Youth Business Competition. Their company, Trofi, is a sustainability-driven venture that aims to reduce food waste while simultaneously offering new nutritional value to livestock farmers and their animals.
Tell us about your business.
Trofi’s online platform will enable suppliers of food by-products, such as fruit and vegetable pulp and spent grain, to connect and sell their “waste” products to livestock farmers who can then incorporate these nutrient-rich products into livestock feed as dietary supplements. After the products are reserved online, suppliers and farmers can negotiate all the details of the transaction, thus making the process convenient for farmers while offering a sustainable waste disposal method for suppliers. For just a small subscription cost each month, suppliers and buyers gain access to effortless connections, increased opportunity for transactions, and a chance to boost their green corporate image.
What inspired the creation of Trofi?
As students from a residential high school, we often go to local smoothie shops and juicers. As we watched the workers create our delicious drinks, we also noticed how much pulp comes from each drink. In fact, a standard 16 ounce of cold-pressed juice yields 4.5 pounds of pulp waste which, as we later found, contributed to the astonishing 175,000 pounds of pulp waste that ends up in landfills each year. After stumbling across an article that told of the incredible story of tons of orange pulp and peels turning nutrient-deprived land into loamy soil after years of decomposition, we wanted to see what fruit pulp could be turned into. Recognizing this problem, we seek solutions to reduce or repurpose this form of food waste besides just composting, which still has some environmental repercussions. Living in small towns in NC, we frequently visit Farmers’ Markets for fresh produce and local meats, eggs, or other dairy products. Supporting these farmers is important to us; therefore, we want to connect these two parties together. Waste from one source could be a hidden gem for the other.
How will Trofi impact the world?
Trofi offers benefits for both suppliers and buyers of the food byproduct items, as well as overall environmental benefit for the local communities. The suppliers – local juice stores, breweries, and other businesses – are able to reduce costs spent on waste disposal while recycling the nutrients that would otherwise be the “waste products” of their business. The buyers – local farmers – are able to enrich their animals’ diet with natural nutrients by paying a small price. Thus, both suppliers and buyers are connected to simultaneously promote sustainability at the highest level. Furthermore, because both suppliers and buyers are local businesses, we are supporting and promoting an economic exchange.
What are the next steps for Trofi?
Trofi currently does not have investors and is in the process of becoming an LLC to begin seeking investors. We would like to work towards incorporating an educational tool for farmers and suppliers on the online platform. While feeding animals food scraps isn’t a new concept, the research and educational tools can bring more awareness to this practice and better cater to the different needs of various types of livestock. We are seeking $8,000 to extend the functionality of our web-based platform, begin development of a mobile platform, and for marketing.
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