Chance, a nice serving of foresight and a lot of persistence, turned concerns into an innovative business
* text in Portuguese can be found here
Did you know that 97% of the palm tree from which heart-of-palm is extracted is discarded? Guilhermo Queiroz, founder of Biosolvit, the winning company in the ‘Biotech’ category of the Latam Edge Award 22, also did not know that - until one fateful day in 2013, when he realised that there were tons of biomass being discarded by a heart-of-palm production company he visited at the time.
Unhappy with the less-than-great destiny being given to such fantastic material, Guilhermo had the idea of taking advantage of this “waste”, turning it into tree fern supplies made of vegetable fibre, which then started to be commercialised in large retail stores focused on houseware.
But that was not enough. In 2017, Guilhermo wanted to discover more noble uses for the biomass produced through this extraction process. And that was how, during his visits to the University Center of Volta Redonda, he met a researcher who was developing a product using the same biomass discarded after the heart of palm harvest - a product dedicated to absorbing oil spills very efficiently. The researcher became a partner of Guilhermo’s company, and that’s how Biosolvit was born.
"We started taking part in international pitches. The first pitch was in Paris, where we presented our solution at StartOut Brasil. Total Petrolifera liked our product and requested to test it at the Cedre Institute in France. Our product was considered the most efficient oil absorber in the world. As well as being faster and more efficient, it allows for the recycling of the oil, reducing remediation costs,” Guilhermo tells us.
From Barra Mansa, a small city in the South West of Rio de Janeiro, the company started dealing with large oil and mining companies, gas station networks, energy companies, and more. “The biopolymer - oil absorbent - which started being the main product of the Bioblue Ecofast line, made it so that in only 3 years, Biosolvit opted to acquire a product distribution company to expand its growth. “Today, we are 27 times bigger than we were in 2019. We grow at a rate of three times per year. This year, we should reach US$ 3m in revenue.”, he says.
And it doesn’t stop there. The company partnered with another startup to develop the Biogreen Agro solution, a bio fertiliser revitalising nutrients in the soil, therefore recovering productivity in farmlands.
Another line of business is that of organic, mineral fertiliser, made through the solubilisation of rocks to release potassium, phosphorous and nitrogen, plus the bio fertiliser and biomass of the harvested palm. Together, they make up a bio compound that recovers the land.
Another product being developed by Biosolvit was born out of the discovery that, beyond just absorbing oil, biomass can absorb hydrocarbons, which are carcinogenic elements, with 99.7% efficacy.
"Water treatment is a great challenge to be faced by humanity in the coming years, so we are working towards developing a type of “film” destined towards water treatment in filtration systems in both industries and households,” says Guilhermo.
Learning opportunities and moving forward
"Today, the sale of tree fern fibre, which makes up the BioGreen Home line, which was the start of everything, is responsible for very little of our income. This line has another dynamic. It relies on the end customer. Starting our selling journey with small retailers instead of starting with large retailers delayed our expansion process. Retail is a different beast, and a series of small mistakes made it so that this line move forward slower.” says Guilhermo.
These products are now commercialised in 15 Brazilian states through large retail stores.
Bio Green Agro is also entirely focused on developing its agriculture solutions. Other lines, such as BioBlue Response (absorption and containment of oil and oil byproducts) and BioBlue Treatment (for water treatment, still in its trial phase), are moving forwards smoothly and quickly.
As well as their product lines, Biosolvit thought it was time to create BioCollab, whose purpose is to manage the company’s innovation projects. It is still in its first stages. The next step is to allow master's and doctorate students to showcase their thesis to this division to receive investments and become company associates.
"We want to change the history of grassroots research in Brazil. Great ideas die on the shelves of universities. Some create a single-product company. What we want is to be the big catalyst for innovation in Brazil. We will take grassroots science projects and manage them, guaranteeing the Go-to-market of these ideas. We want the inventors and creators as co-participants and for them to be with us in the growth of these businesses,” says Guilhermo.
Advice to those looking to start their entrepreneurial journey
Guilhermo is very cautious in business when it comes to governance and control. “Having a well-structured governance model is fundamental. We have a very mature model for our size, and we want to perfect it even more over time,” he comments, saying that advisers must have a critical view and bring in suggestions without fear. Another important thing is to put energy into what’s most important to grow in an organised fashion. Paying attention to the CapTable. “We did two market funding operations, and the founding partners still have 75.2% of the capital. In order for that to happen, it is necessary to have very well-structured governance rules.”
Biosolvit going worldwide
The companies’ connection with overseas markets began thanks to two partnerships: one in the United States and another in Europe. Guilhermo wants to make sure that its products gain credibility through local partners with whom the company is associated, such as TechnoFink, in the United States, in the area of Oil & Gas. England is another market the company is gearing towards.
As to their near-future plans (in the next two years), the businessman affirms that having a solid operation in place from an environmental perspective, such as a water treatment operation gaining more scale, a gardening products operation expanding and BioGreen Agro moving forward.
For BioCollab, the plan is to have 40 to 50 projects moving forward at once.
And that is just the beginning.
For more information connect with www.biosolvit.com