RegenBiomass exists to the develop regenerative biomass crops as natural solutions for combating climate change. It is currently developing a pilot project in the Salton Sea Region of Southern California for creating an environmental and economically sustainable bamboo industry for the United States. This project, developed on marginal desert lands not suitable for traditional agriculture, avoids the “food versus fuel” controversy concerning dedicated bioenergy crops.
Here, Bio Market Insights deputy editor Liz Gyekye, catches up with RegenBiomass CEO and Founder Phil Cruver.
Liz Gyekye (LG): Welcome to 5 Minutes With. Please tell me a bit more about bamboo.
Phil Cruver (PC): Bamboo is the fastest growing plant on the planet. Reaching three feet per day, it provides numerous environmental, economic, and social benefits to society. Global commercial scale bamboo plantations can produce regenerative biomass that can be economically converted into biofuels; alcohol spirits; pulp for paper and textiles; timber and lumber; and, afforestation projects.
Bioengineering and microbial research is also being conducted for producing higher-yielding bamboo more tolerant to drought and salinity conditions in harsh desert environments. Empirical growth rates and carbon sequestration data are being evaluated for creating a carbon offset protocol that would subsidise the development of large-scale commercial bamboo plantations contributing towards decarbonising the planet.
LG: What is your role and what do you specialise in?
PC: I am the Founder and CEO of RegenBiomass and now responsible for recruiting a talented team to execute my vision for developing a bamboo industry in America. I specialise in strategy and envision a huge opportunity for accelerated breeding employing modern biotechnology for creating higher performing bamboo crops. The global bamboo market is forecasted to reach $100 billion during this decade of which about 80% is grown in China and exported to the United States and Europe. Supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic, particularly with products from China, now presents a providential opportunity for a developing a domestic bamboo industry in America for secure supplies.
LG: Before going into your current role, what did you used to do?
PC: I am a bioeconomy entrepreneur now launching RegenBiomass as my sixth start-up company. Decades ago, I developed $50 million of wind energy parks in Palm Springs, California, and more recently the Founder of Catalina Sea Ranch, which became the first open ocean aquaculture facility in U.S. Federal waters located six miles offshore Huntington Beach, CA.
LG: What advice would you give to somebody starting out?
PC: Make your mantra “follow your passion” and “never give up”.
LG: What opportunities are there for the bioeconomy sector in the current climate?
PC: The devastating pandemic and social justice movement have recently overshadowed climate change on the world stage. However, these events may serve as the precursor for positive change and providing the social media platform for a bioeconomy revolution. Consider Einstein’s quote “In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity”. With this extant opportunity, more rhetoric will be required for rebuilding the global economy with a “Green Infrastructure” that is economically and environmentally more sustainable and respectful of our increasingly overpopulated fragile planet.
LG: How do you see your organisation post-covid?
PC: We are working with legislators to amend the Trillion Tree Act for including bamboo plantations and supporting the recently introduced Global Climate Solutions Act for breaking down barriers with a USDA carbon credit certification program encouraging climate-smart practices. If enacted into law, these bills would help create a bamboo industry in America for jumpstarting job growth, economic expansion and accelerating the fight against climate change.
With continued pandemic unemployment and the increasing movement for social equity, we believe a carefully crafted Green Jobs Stimulus Program later this year could provide a popular bipartisan solution. Thus, we are promoting a project for “putting to work” hundreds of thousands of fallow federal lands as bamboo plantations in the deserts of California. These “Carbon Farms” would create jobs for producing valuable commercial products including renewable biofuels, sustainable pulp for paper products, textiles, lumber and timber.
LG: The consumer has slightly shifted back to fossil fuel-based plastic during this pandemic? Do you think that they will switch back to alternatives again after this crisis?
PC: I think consumers and corporate band owners, influenced by educated and passionate Millennials, will shun fossil fuel-based products and embrace sustainable alternatives for the future. The pandemic has brought global attention to the “real cost” of unsustainable products and unreliable foreign supply chains. I also believe the pandemic will unleash a wave of innovation for new disruptive technologies producing products that are not only ‘sustainable’ but also ‘regenerative’ for combating climate change.
LG: What one thing would you like the bio-based industry to do better and why?
PC: Emphasize science-based data as requisite metrics for the real cost of pollution along with government subsidies and externalities that must be included in the economic equation. The recovering global economy needs to emulate the Nordic countries that have whole-heartedly embraced the transition to low-emission societies and as a result of their first mover advantage are now dominating the global renewable energy industry. Climate resilience and nature-based solutions need to be inculcated into the global consciousness of consumers and corporations.
LG: What’s your favourite sustainability product?
PC: Vodka and gin distilled from regenerative biomass! My twin offspring intend to develop a distinctive Catalina Kelp Spirits brand targeting the massive market of environmentally passionate Millennials who would pay a premium for a gin distilled from sustainable, CO2 sequestering giant kelp with the catchphrase “Drink to Save the Planet”. This branding could also be applied to vodka distilled from regenerative bamboo grown on marginal desert lands in the desert for the $50 billion white spirits market.