Capro-X reimagines Greek yogurt waste

By Beth Newhart

- Last updated on GMT

“For people who don’t really know dairy, it’s a bit of a hard sell to convince them of the problem of acid whey." Pic: Getty/ToscaWhi
“For people who don’t really know dairy, it’s a bit of a hard sell to convince them of the problem of acid whey." Pic: Getty/ToscaWhi

Related tags Agriculture Biotechnology FoodBytes Rabobank Greek yogurt Yogurt Palm oil

Each cup of Greek yogurt generates more than three cups of acid whey waste, which is expensive to dispose of sustainably. Startup Capro-X says it offers more cost-effective, creative solutions to the problem.

A PhD student from Cornell University noticed the massive waste problem facing yogurt producers, particularly located in upstate New York. Dr Juan JL Guzman founded Capro-X in 2017 as a continuation of his academic work, and will pitch to investors at next week’s FoodBytes event.

The live pitch and networking program will take place in Chicago for the first time on September 19 at Revel Fulton Market, and chosen startups will have three minutes to present to investors. Guzman applied for FoodBytes to grow his business he says will come to market in 2022.

Many CPG companies are working long-term to improve their environmental sustainability, like reducing the product shipments through trucking to cut back on carbon emissions. Greek yogurt companies now ship more trucks of waste out of their plants than product.

Guzman told DairyReporter that another option is returning the acid whey back to cows for feed. But cows don’t like it because of the acidity, so it can only be added in as a wetting agent in a small volume. It also has land application for fertilizer, but each state has different regulations.

Capro-X wants to be an inexpensive solution to the problem as a sustainable agriculture biotechnology company. Its model will upgrade the wastes and byproducts into valuable chemicals.

The Capro-X treatment system is called Whey Away, and systems can be installed on site. Guzman said the company charges per gallon of disposed acid whey, which s treated down to sewer discharge, or can be left with the clients to reuse on site if they want.

The process yields bio-oils, a direct alternative to palm oil chemicals that can be sold in the specialty chemicals industry. Capro-X says that by treating just 10% of the acid whey produced in New York, the company can yield 500,000 gallons of bio-oil per year and prevent 10,00 tons of greenhouse gas emissions caused by trucking the waste.

Capro-X already has a system installed at a Greek yogurt plant in New York, and plans to reach 10x growth per year until fully launching to market in 2022. Guzman said Whey Away is pledging a 20% cheaper rate than current disposal methods.

Capro-X is looking to own, partner and operate the Whey Away system itself rather than use it in a licensing model, and is talking to several Greek yogurt producers about future partnerships.

For now Capro-X is focusing on specialty chemicals, then wants to explore applications in animal feed additives and fuels. Guzman thinks it is great timing to pitch at FoodBytes, and connect with new Greek yogurt and other dairy by-product producers.

“For people who don’t really know dairy, it’s a bit of a hard sell to convince them of the problem of acid whey and the impacts we can make there. We’re excited to pitch to people who really understand what we’re doing and have a gut instinct on the impact we can have for them for treating this waste problem,”​ Guzman said.

At FoodBytes, Capro-X will be a part of the five startups pitching from ag tech. There will also be five CPG companies and five in food tech.

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