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Young Innovators

Follow-up: interview with founder Nadine Antic

In 2013, with the backing of BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg GmbH and Plattform Umwelttechnik, the managing directors of GlobalFlow GmbH successfully obtained funding under the ”Young Innovators” programme. The programme is run by the Baden-Württemberg government and is aimed at giving university graduates who want to establish their own businesses the opportunity to develop their business idea further. Ursula Göttert from BIOPRO Baden-Württmberg GmbH met up with Nadine Antic, managing director of both GlobalFlow GmbH and albfertil GmbH, to find out how she has got on with her project.

Ms Antic, at the end of 2013 you were awarded funding from the Young Innovators funding programme. What were you seeking to achieve with your SeNaFlora project?

Nadine Antic, CEO of GlobalFlow GmbH und albfertil GmbH © GlobalFlow GmbH

Our goal was to develop a technology to process and transform biogenic waste into high-quality products. We wanted to make sure that we were actually upcycling rather than just recycling or downcycling.

You have now established albfertil GmbH, which is basically a start-up spun out of GlobalFlow, which itself was a start-up. Why did you decide to do it this way?

The two companies deal with very different issues. GlobalFlow provides consulting services on waste management and albfertil markets recycling technologies. I don't think that advising people to go more or less next door to buy a recycling technology is the best of ideas. Also, by separating the two businesses, we have a better chance with investors and partners who are not interested in consulting services. Establishing two companies was the best option for us and gives us a much broader range of possibilities..

When and where did you establish albfertil GmbH?

Albfertil had already more or less been operating as part of GlobalFlow. It was officially founded in September 2015, but we had been producing and working on what are now albfertil products a long time before that. A company called Korn Recycling owns 50 percent of albfertil. Korn Recycling is, as the name suggests, a waste management organisation. We decided to work with Korn Recycling because there was a great deal of synergy between the two companies. We chose a village in the Swabian mountains as our headquarters. The site had been acquired by Korn Recycling and is currently being developed. This gave us the opportunity to start work on a new project.

The project has been running for around two years now. What have your major difficulties been?

One of our major difficulties was spinning out a company from a start-up company. It was not particularly easy. The overall project management of the system we planned to install was another major challenge. This was an area where we had no previous knowledge. And of course, various obstacles arose and had to be dealt with in every single project phase. Things like financing the project and choosing a company site. One major problem was finding a location in Stuttgart that was big enough for large quantities of biogenic waste, affordable for us, and accessible at all times to lorries. The issue of authorisation was also a major issue, as were organising the production process and quality assurance. But these were aspects I knew I had to deal with. However, I didn't anticipate that securing financial resources and finding a suitable company site would take so long. Fertilisers are naturally used in spring and summer. So it is crucial not to miss these particular times of year, otherwise you have to wait for the following year. These were all challenges that we had to deal with.

Your idea received financial support through the Young Innovators funding programme. Would you say that it is a great opportunity for university graduates who want to test and develop a business idea?

We could not have developed our idea without this financial backing. It gave us a working budget. The Young Innovators programme enabled us to optimise our technology and our project. I would say that the Young Innovators funding was key to our success and the reason that we have come as far as we have. The start-up funds from the Baden-Württemberg government and from L-Bank have helped us a lot, there's no question about it.

I remember you receiving advice from BIOPRO and Plattform Umwelttechnik at a very early stage of company establishment. Would you say that was also an advantage?

Yes, that was definitely a huge advantage. It showed us how somebody experienced in this particular field did it. It gave us a lot of confidence. It also helped a lot to find out how we could budget and plan for the kind of facility we needed. I was very unsure about it all at first. We were shown how we could move things forward as efficiently as possible. I would have started by counting and calculating the cost of every screw. So, the support we were given was extremely helpful.

What's next for you? How will you continue?

We are currently working on the construction of the facility. Then we will prepare market entry for the next fertiliser season and look at expanding the facility. At the moment, it is designed for an annual output of 150 tons. However, in the long term, we're hoping to achieve an output of 10,000 tons per year.

And which substrates do you currently use for vermicomposting?

Our suppliers currently provide us with buffalo manure, horse manure and by-products from food production.

But you would welcome new substrates, wouldn't you?

If somebody offers us biogenic waste, we always investigate the substrate and use it as the basis for developing a mixture with the right nutrient composition. We have different recipes for producing fertilisers for different applications. We are currently developing a rose fertiliser and a bonsai fertiliser. The nutritional value of each fertiliser is calculated for each specific plant. We are currently going through a biocertification process and if everything goes according to plan, we'll be able to market fertilisers for organic farming.

Is there any other advice that you would give future company founders? You have set up two companies and I am sure you are now very aware of what is important.

The only thing I'd like to say is that even if you plan as much as you can, a lot of things won't turn out as you planned. Plans are great, but worthless without a great deal of work. Another thing I think is very important is that you have to keep going when you're an entrepreneur, and try to enjoy all the highs and lows.

Website address: https://www.bio-pro.de/en/press/articles/follow-up-interview-with-founder-nadine-antic