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Converting Locally Collected Waste Plastics into a Clean, Durable Growth Medium…

Award Information

Department of Agriculture
Award ID:
Program Year/Program:
2008 / SBIR
Agency Tracking Number:
Solicitation Year:
Solicitation Topic Code:
Solicitation Number:
Small Business Information
Kamuela Greenhouse/Specialty Orchids
64-5131 White Road Kamuela, HI 96743 8239
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Woman-Owned: Yes
Minority-Owned: Yes
HUBZone-Owned: No
Phase 2
Fiscal Year: 2008
Title: Converting Locally Collected Waste Plastics into a Clean, Durable Growth Medium for Orchids
Agency: USDA
Contract: N/A
Award Amount: $268,100.00


Hawaii orchid growers, of which there are more than 70, face increasing competition from mega-nurseries in California and Florida as well as from producers in Taiwan, Thailand, and Holland. The business model among Hawaii growers tends to small, family operated concerns, by choice and tradition. A single orchid nursery in Salinas, Calif., is larger than all Hawaii orchid nurseries combined. Hawaii, because of its ideal natural conditions and pure water, once was able to compete on price in mainland markets, not having the expenses of heating, cooling, and purifying water. But the industrial approach practiced on the mainland has brought down unit prices, and mainland nurseries have lower freight-to-market charges and growth media costs. Imported orchid bark and coconut chips, the main media constituents used in Hawaii, have nearly doubled in price in the last year, as has Perlite, an inorganic amendment. Orchid bark is subject to scarcity, and at times all media options have been unavailable to Hawaii growers due to supplier problems. Additionally, organic media breaks down, inviting a host of problems for plant, grower and end user. The new product (called, for now, RPM, recycled plastic media) is intended help growers be more competitive both with cost and plant performance factors. The PD will focus on feedstock from plastic types that presently are not collected for recycling and typically wind up in the nearly full landfill if not in the marine or terrestrial environment. Collection of the feedstock will be facilitated by Hawaii County recycling officials, private recyclers, and the American Chemical Council a national organization representing plastics producers.

Principal Investigator:

Cassandra Phillips

Business Contact:

Cassandra Phillips
Small Business Information at Submission:

Kamuela Greenhouse/Specialty Orchids
64-5131 White Road Kamuela, HI 96743

Number of Employees:
Woman-Owned: No
Minority-Owned: No
HUBZone-Owned: No