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

Award Information
Agency: Department of Agriculture
Branch: N/A
Contract: N/A
Agency Tracking Number: 2006-00621
Amount: $268,100.00
Phase: Phase II
Program: SBIR
Awards Year: 2008
Solicitation Year: N/A
Solicitation Topic Code: N/A
Solicitation Number: N/A
Small Business Information
64-5131 White Road, Kamuela, HI, 96743
DUNS: 125105606
HUBZone Owned: N
Woman Owned: N
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: N
Principal Investigator
 Cassandra Phillips
 (808) 887-6505
Business Contact
 Cassandra Phillips
Title: co-owner
Phone: (808) 887-6505
Research Institution
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.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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