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The Future of CEA: Insights from Tinia Pina, Founder of Re-Nuble

Navigating the Future of Sustainable Agriculture: Insights from Re-Nuble's CEO Tinia Pina

In a recent interview, Tinia Pina, CEO and founder of Re-Nuble, unpacked a wealth of insights into the evolving Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) sector, mainly focusing on the integral role of mediums within the operations.

In recent months we’ve seen many innovations, from reusable plugs to leveraging Bamboo fiber to make it biodegradable. Various companies are searching for the perfect solution adapted to today’s needs.

Pina introduced Re-Nuble and its product offerings, highlighting the potential for creating growing mediums from Jute fiber. While this innovative approach to recycling promises to redefine waste management within the agriculture sector, it is not without its challenges. Regulatory hurdles can pose a barrier to successfully reusing growing mediums. 

The conversation also discussed the risks and mitigation strategies associated with wastewater usage. While Pina didn't explicitly articulate any risks, the implications of strict regulatory requirements and the potential for contamination underpin the need for robust risk mitigation strategies in the CEA sector. “I think that the industry can do a better job when it comes to risk mitigation strategies and adopting food grade standards throughout facilities to avoid a contamination or a health/sanitary scandal that would jeopardize the entire industry,” commented Tinia Pina.

Currently, Re-Nuble utilizes jute fiber in their mediums but is exploring other options, like banana fibers. This shift in the material can offer a balance between water and air retention, leading to lower irrigation needs and, thus, significant water savings. Their products include plugs, mats, other compressed form factors such as blocks and slabs, and loose fibers to address salinity, raw material sourcing, and sizing inconsistencies.

Pina pointed out the fragility and maintenance issues that plague foam plugs, especially those using agar. These problems could strip control from farms and lead to maintenance issues before, during, and after use. The degradation of mediums is a critical concern. Hence the shift towards fibers, which offer resilience in high humidity environments, reduce the risk of infections and promote healthy root growth.

Discussing the properties of their products, Pina elaborated on the water-holding capacities and air porosity of their bound and loose substrates. By controlling these aspects, the company aims to demonstrate potential cost savings and increased profits for farmers. “If the plug can retain more water, that means that there are fewer irrigation needs and a smaller risk when it comes to drought risk, thus yielding cost savings when it comes to water and energy usage,” she commented.

Plans for Re-Nuble include expanding product lines, such as blocks and slabs, to the European and North American markets. However, Pina acknowledged the challenges of educating regulators outside the US and Canada about their organic binder made from non-synthetic materials.

“The organic farming certification is not challenging to obtain, both in the U.S. and abroad. The lack of consistent and transparent standardization makes it sometimes difficult,” adds Tinia Pina

The hurdles of achieving certifications like OMRI, Kocher, and RHP, coupled with cost efficiency and handling problems, make organic farming a complex field to navigate.

“We are working actively with the trade associations we are collaborating with to streamline the certification process and hopefully accelerate it, but it still represents a hurdle for us, especially compared to the US & Canada,” said Tinia Pina.

Underpinning Re-Nuble's business model is a strong social mandate. The company prioritizes reinvestment into programs that educate and train communities about sustainable farming practices, fostering partnerships with organizations like NY Sun Works and Glens Fall Vertical Farm Project.

Pina also shared her perspectives on the industry at large. She highlighted the presence of too much ego, a focus on rapid growth, and financial interests that often supersede sustainability goals. She advocated for a more considered approach, urging operators to invest in proof of concept and iterative consulting from multiple parties for rapid and diverse feedback delivered in stages.

“This is not a software company. No matter how much technology you incorporate into your facility, it remains a farm and should be seen as one. This underpins the need for a holistic approach to scaling and reaching certain milestones before even considering expansion.” She added.

In conclusion, this enlightening conversation with Tinia Pina revealed the evolving CEA industry's complexities, opportunities, and challenges. As companies like Re-Nuble continue to innovate and push boundaries, the path toward a more sustainable and efficient future for agriculture is becoming increasingly apparent.


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