Are there startup ideas for the environment?

Four start-ups that help the environment

Start-ups with sustainable business ideas enrich the economy and protect the environment. Four of them were honored as the best in their state at this year's KfW Award Reasons for corresponding solutions. We present the innovative ideas of the winners.

Enjoyable sustainability in capsule form

In Germany alone, eight million capsules are used and thrown away every day. This creates a huge pile of garbage of around 20 tons per day.

The Brandenburg start-up UniCaps wants to counteract this. Coffee and tea capsules are sold that offer the same convenience as conventional capsules. But they are climate neutral and compostable. “Coffee and tea are the most popular drinks in the world after water. And many consumers use capsule machines. That was a perfect approach, ”says managing director Dirk N. Tillmann.

With UniCaps we want to offer consumers enjoyable sustainability and encourage them to be more environmentally conscious in their everyday lives.

Enjoyment therefore plays a decisive role at UniCaps, but not without foregoing the convenience advantage for the customer. Enjoyment and convenience do not have to contradict each other, as UniCaps shows.

That is why the products are not only produced sustainably, but should not have any loss of taste compared to the competition. Therefore, the range of coffees, which range from exotic specialties to caffeine-free single-origin, is preserved in aroma capsules, as is the case with other manufacturers.

Instead of aluminum and plastic, UniCap's capsules are made from renewable raw materials. They consist of the raw material lignin, which is used in wood and paper processing and is made up of glucose and starch.

Sustainable processes are not only considered with the capsules. The production is powered by green electricity and the content of the capsules is certified organic, it is grown without pesticides.

UniCaps also offers various teas. When the company was founded in 2016, the business idea was even only focused on selling tea capsules before coffee was added.

To keep the tea in capsule form fresh, the start-up developed Aroma Technology. With a mechanical crushing process of the tea leaves, the tea can draw faster and can be enjoyed within a few seconds. The taste, fragrance and color are extracted from the tea capsules in a short time.

UniCaps' products are sold under the My-Teacup and My-Coffeecup brands and offered for Nespresso capsule machines.

We wanted to break into the market as pioneers with the tea capsules. It was only when customers asked us whether we also sell coffee that we expanded our range. Since then we have also been offering coffee capsules.

UniCaps' customers include numerous hotels and retail stores such as DM drugstore, Rewe, Kaufland and Tegut. A large part of the sales takes place via the online shop. “There is still a lot to be done in our market segment across Europe. That is why we want to work on a geographical scaling of our products as well as on other capsule formats such as Dolce Gusto ”, says Tillmann.

Robust seeds and optimized fertilizer for better yields

More and more regions and countries are struggling with dry and sterile soils in their agricultural economy. Due to the changes in the climate, continents like Africa in particular have problems with agriculture.

We want to change agriculture in such a way that it increases productivity, but at the same time is environmentally friendly, promotes biodiversity, stores CO2 and can adapt to climate change.

The two founders of the Lower Saxony start-up SeedForward also met in Africa in 2015. In early 2017, they received the funding they needed to advance their research and products.

Although they had the wish, it was unfortunately not possible for them to start up in Africa:

We couldn't set up our start-up in Africa because there wasn't enough funding and the political situation was far too complicated.

In cooperation with organic associations, universities and chambers of agriculture, the founders in this country developed the idea of ​​a sustainable seed coating that makes plants more resistant and protects them from pathogens.

The result is a seed coating that increases the germination rate of crops, reduces water requirements and simplifies the supply of nutrients. Furthermore, the seeding accuracy is improved by coating the germs. The results for the farmers are fertilizer savings and an increased yield.

The range currently includes seeds for maize and grain. However, the founders are not resting on their previous successes: SeedForward continues to carry out test runs in their production hall in Osnabrück and try out optimized recipes.

SeedForward's products should not only protect the plants, but also improve the soil at the same time. In addition to seed coating, the start-up also offers fertilizers - so-called FREYA products, which have various advantages.

In contrast to conventional fertilizers, the seeds are coated with natural active ingredients and thereby strengthen the growth and resistance of the plant.

The nitrogen fertilizer and the NP fertilizer in particular ensure stronger growth, while the organic plant-based NPK fertilizer is not eaten by wild animals and provides the plants with an optimal combination of nutrients. The individual types of fertilizer have other properties that you can read on the provider's website.

Ice cream made from fresh organic milk and without additives

The start-up Henry’s Eismanufaktur from Saarland does not offer ordinary ice cream. Founder and managing director Dominik Heil sells artisan ice cream made from milk from the certified organic Bliesgau dairy. No flavorings or preservatives, flavor enhancers and added colorings are used.

From the classics to unusual ice cream flavors such as pineapple-purple-curry, everything is included. “We are also very close to our customers - whether at the ice cream truck, at the window sales in our ice cream parlor or when delivering to our trading partners. This has the advantage that we get exactly the first-hand feedback that is important for our further development. An ice cream man you can touch, ”says Dominik Heil.

Regionality is an important topic for the founder. Because “organic” alone does not make the economy sustainable.

What good is an organically grown pear if it is flown in by plane thousands of kilometers, even though I get a wonderful fruit from my trusted fruit grower that exactly meets my quality requirements?

It was important to him right from the start not to supply all of Germany, but to offer “ice cream from the region for the region”. He remains true to this philosophy: while he was running the ice cream parlor as a sideline, he built up a considerable network of fruit growers. They give him the certainty that the quality can be relied on and the products are free from pesticides. “With regionality you automatically associate connectedness, home. For me, regionality is the new organic ”, says Heil.

In times when it is always about higher, faster, further and everything can be ordered online around the clock, the customer longs for the tried and tested. According to the quality craftsmanship.

In 2016, Dominik Heil made ice cream manufacture his main job. The business is no longer a one-man show, but is supported by up to 35 employees during the high season. This not only helps in production and sales, but also in the creativity of the ice cream flavors. “Most of the now around 300 recipes were developed between 2011 and 2016,” explains Dominik Heil.

My greatest inspiration comes from my travels in winter. In other countries I get to know foreign fruits and eat exotic dishes. Then I think about how I can transfer the taste to the ice cream.

The record is almost 70 tons of ice cream sold per year. Although this is not the same as the mass-produced goods in the ice cream industry, it is a considerable amount. And it is growing - that is why founder Dominik Heil is facing a conversion of the production area. 35 square meters are not enough and now have to be doubled, and a third deep-freeze store is also necessary.

Otherwise, we stick to the philosophy of maintaining our quality, growing steadily but healthily and doing what our customers are used to from us every day - good ice cream.

Floral fragrance at SystemaNatura

The start-up SystemaNatura from Schleswig-Holstein supports drug and cosmetics manufacturers in product development and the optimization of active ingredients from medicinal and scented plants. The founder Claudia Valder is a trained pharmacist and perfumer. She launched SystemaNatura in 2016 and has been building her own production since 2018.

SystemaNatura specializes in essential oils: Conserving resources are used for production, which lead to maximum yield. The oils are i.a. Used in nature-based cosmetics and cold preparations. The start-up grows its own scented and medicinal plants, sometimes in structurally weak regions. With this, SystemaNatura wants to promote the values ​​of fairness and humanity.

We optimize global supply chains so that at the end of a production process everything comes from a single source, from the seed of a plant to the finished active ingredient.

At the same time, the subsidiary Symaplant is setting up a production facility for herbal active ingredients at the company's Flintbek location using environmentally friendly recycling technologies. But global plantations are also gradually being built with a network of sustainable providers.

Before an oil is completely processed in the industry, it has to go through various steps. The founder and her seven employees are preparing a special system development for these steps. In addition to the extraction, the start-up also takes care of analytical services and the creation of correct documentation.

It is particularly important to us to operate sustainably and to meet our suppliers on an equal footing.

More award-winning start-ups: The winners of the KfW Entrepreneurship Awards 2019. We present the national winner and public winner Boreal Light in our founder story, as well as another winner of the You Mawo Award.

  • For 20 years, KfW Bankengruppe has presented companies with the KfW Entrepreneurship Award (formerly “GründerChampions”) for the first five years of their business activity. Companies from all sectors that are based in Germany can apply for the prestigious award. The winners are selected by a jury made up of experienced representatives from KfW, politics and business. The award ceremony took place on October 17th as part of the opening event of deGUT.

Tags:Henry's EismanufakturKfW AwardKfW Award Gründsustainable business ideasSeedForwardSystemaNaturaUniCaps