AgroRenew Founder Brian Southern on Plans to Turn Watermelon Waste into Bioplastics in Knox County

Brian and Katie Southern AgroRenew
Brian and Katie Southern, the co-founders of AgroRenew LLC, which plans to invest invest $83 million to build a new facility south of Vincennes that will convert the wastes from watermelons, cantaloupes, and pumpkins and convert it into bioplastics. Photo provided by Brian Southern.


There’s a newly-formed company in Knox County called AgroRenew LLC that plans to create a product that’s incredibly unique.

“We’re taking watermelon waste and reducing it down into a micron dust and blending it with some other bio sources to form a resin polymer that can then be used to make various types of plastics,” says Brian Southern, who has co-founded AgroRenew with his wife Katie.

“The uniqueness about this is that this plastic is 100% biodegradable,” according to Southern.” Everything gets decomposed and goes back into the soil including replacing nutrients in the soil, so it’s very unique from that perspective.”

The plans are to invest $83 million to build a new facility at the intersection of U.S. 41 and Elkorn Road in the U.S. 41 Industrial Park south of Vincennes. The factory will be a total of 196,000-square feet and cover more than 20 acres.

AgroRenew LLCHe says the idea was created to convert watermelon waste into bioplastics after talking with a number of watermelon producers in the Knox County community.

“Knox County is the number one producer of watermelons in the state of Indiana and number two in the country,” says Southern. “My wife and I were talking to them about the amount of food waste they have every year because their crops don’t sell, or they don’t pass their quality inspections. The number is just staggering—it’s approximately 100 million pounds a year. We were thinking there has to be something better we can do with that, and so we started to research. My wife, Katie, use to be a food scientist, and I was a processing engineer, so we looked at some other ways that we can utilize this BioSource.”

That’s when Southern says both he and his wife decided to pool together their knowledge of food science and plastics engineering to develop the new product.

“We decided to experiment and what we were able to determine was that we could use portions of the chemical properties of a watermelon to create a resin polymer that is 100% biodegradable,” says Southern.

In addition to watermelon waste, the company also plans to use the waste of cantaloupes and pumpkins to convert into eco-friendly bioplastics.

Construction plans are already in the works for AgroRenew’s brand new facility that’s being built just south of Vincennes.

“We should have most of that completed by the end of this year with a target of sometime in March 2024 of breaking ground,” according to Southern. “Then we’re estimating about a 10-month build out for the plant. The first phase will be approximately 106,000 square feet with a second phase of adding another 92,000 square feet for production facilities.”

The new facility is scheduled to open by 2026 and employ nearly 250 people.

There are also future plans to establish a 16,000-square-foot Bioplastics Innovation Center next to the facility that will provide 21 acres of experimental crop development creating over 20 science and engineering jobs.

Southern says the new website will be and will provide progress of the construction for the new Vincennes facility. In the meantime, you can click here to visit the AgroRenew Facebook page.

Click below to hear the full conversation with Brian Southern, co-founder of AgroRenew LLC, as he talks about the development of the idea, the support he and his wife have received from the Knox County community, and the economic benefits the new company and facility will bring to Vincennes and southwestern Indiana.

AgroRenew LLC
AgroRenew LLC founders Brian and and Katie Southern, along with officials from the City of Vincennes, the Knox County Indiana Economic Development Corporation, and The Pantheon announced AgroRenew’s $83 million facility that will convert waste from Indiana’s watermelon and pumpkin industries into biodegradable plastics. Photo courtesy of the Knox County Indiana Economic Development Corporation.


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