Who are you and what does your company make?
Kyle Wyche | Chief Operating Officer at Ecotone Renewables.
Ecotone Renewables is a Pittsburgh Pa, based startup company with the mission is to make sustainable food and agriculture systems more accessible and prevalent. We are dedicated to building tools necessary to empower communities to redevelop and grow through sustainable food practices. We do this through building ZEUS. ZEUS is a retrofitted, upcycled shipping container with anaerobic digestion abilities that process 10 tons of food waste per year thus producing 2,600 gallons of registered organic liquid plant fertilizer and diverting 90lbs of CO2 from the atmosphere with each gallon. Additionally we produce a renewable biogas that is partially used to run the ZEUS.
What’s your favorite thing about making a physical product?
Creating the Ecotone Renewables ZEUS (zero energy upcycling system) food processer and Soil Sauce, our Organic Liquid Plant Fertilizer, takes the efforts of many individuals and teams. Therefore, the best part about making a physical product is the manifestation of that product while building camaraderie amongst the given team members. At Ecotone Renewables we pride ourselves on a strong core team and this is just one way in which we forge that.
How do you think your product will benefit the world?
Since 2019, Ecotone Renewables has been providing Pittsburgh a hyper-local, earth-healing, and sustainable solution for processing food waste and enriching our soil, which continues to be depleted. “The average mineral content of calcium, magnesium, and iron in cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes, and spinach alone has dropped 80-90% between 1914 and 2018 in the US” (consciousplanet.com, 2022). Our patent-pending ZEUS anaerobic digestion system annually diverts 240,000 lb CO2/system by reducing expensive waste hauling and processes up to 10 tons of food waste that would have gone to landfill. The byproduct is our Soil Sauce (certified organic fertilizer we sell to fund more digesters), an untreated, anaerobic digestate that gives plants powerful NPK nutrients and a wide variety of micronutrients essential for strong plant growth and nutrient uptake through the roots. This sauce also reintroduces beneficial microbes and bacteria back into the soil, improving its long-term health. The benefits for Pittsburgh (widely troubled by acidic soil) are already evident. Sheridan Orchards used 200 gallons of Soil Sauce over 3 years, which yielded their biggest harvest to date last year, at 600lb of produce donated locally.
What hobbies and skills did you have when you were younger that you see having an influence on the work you’re doing now?
Ability of a quick learner
Gardening – I’ve always enjoyed vegetable gardening and growing indoor plants.
Terrarium building – This hobby stemmed from placing maple seeds in a wet paper towel and plastic sandwich bag to watch the plants grow. Eventually I turned this into a small business and learned the art of terrarium building.
Photography – Photography was a passion of my grandfathers and is a shared passion I have with my father. Photography I have since turned into a small freelance gig and use my talents in documentation of the production line as well as creating marketing materials for Ecotone Renewables.
Botanist – Similar to gardening I would grow any seed I had the chance to. I would propagate mango seeds and avocado seeds in Philadelphia. Botany has tough me about how plants grow and the necessary minerals they require for adequate growing conditions.
Videography – like photography, videography and video editing is a hobby I’ve since used in marketing materials for Ecotone Renewables.
What encouragement would you give to kids and their parents to assure them that manufacturing and creating new products is a worthwhile career choice?
The encouragement I provide to kids and their parents is that through learning the art of manufacturing a product a kid is gaining the skills necessary to be resilient in any field. With product development they’re learning ideation, customer discovery, product market fit, and design skills. Depending on if they focus more on the leadership aspect of product manufacturing they can gain responsibility, managerial skills, and operational management to oversee the manufacturing process.
Lastly, who is one of your favorite Pittsburgh makers/creators (individual, startup, local business, etc.) and why?
While there are many companies I’d like to highlight as my favorite, I originally picked out Thread International, because they were one of the first Pittsburgh based companies that caught my eye during college. Thread International focuses on creating new jobs and sustainability through repurposing collected water bottles from polluted areas as sewing thread for polyester clothing and backpacks.
Interview done by Emily Siegel, Catalyst Connection.