A necessary new approach to our consumption of resources

May 4, 2021
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What ingredients are needed to build a healthy, sustainable, circular ecosystem? Where there is more consideration for our planet, which helps reduce CO2 emissions, stops depleting our natural resources, and builds healthy businesses. I spoke about this with Mr. Hollen CEO of the Human Kind Group. Mr. Hollen is also a consortium partner and co-founder of Biomass India.

Biomass India The goal of this initiative is to buy rice straw from 1 million farmers and convert it into circular biobased products such as renewable energy, bio-fertilizers, furniture panels, paper and packaging products which can compete with conventional products in terms of quality, price, and performance. This program introduces the latest Dutch technologies in the field of circularity and brings together pioneers in the field of sustainability. A consortium of 6 public and private pioneers are committed to finding new solutions to the global problems of resource depletion and toxic emissions.

Why did you establish the Human Kind Group? The main reason for Mr. Hollen to found the Human Kind Group is to address the world’s most pressing problems. He has 4 children and thinks a lot about what future we leave for the next generations. He thinks about food scarcity, resource depletion, a toxic atmosphere, global warming and therefore climate change. That future can look different, but then we must start working together on common visions and goals with new technologies and business models.

The Human Kind Group wants to play a key role in bringing these new solutions to market. The impact they want to make are in the areas of CO2 reduction, regenerative agriculture, renewable energy from biomass and resource circularity. Biomass India is particularly focused on this. “We can use agricultural waste for the sustainable production of a wide range of products that can then be reused. Be it building materials or furniture, housing, or packaging. At the same time, we can avoid burning this agricultural waste. We are committed to finding new solutions to the problems.”

What is in the name Human Kind? What does it refer to? “One night I was sitting in my study reading and looked at the word: humankind. And I really saw two words. Human and kind. Humanity faces some very significant challenges. Potentially existential problems. And yet we believe in the almost limitless ability of humans to innovate and use ingenuity to solve difficult problems. This is part of our human culture. The second word is kind. We believe we must face these challenges together. We must do so with compassion, and we must work to create an economic system that is more beneficial and equitable. A system where there is more room for participation for all individuals around the world.

What made you decide to tackle the problem of burning rice straw in India? “Starting with the global resource system. This is generally based on single use. In 1900, we extracted and used about 7 billion tons of material. In the year 2000, it was 49 billion tons, which is about a sevenfold increase. Between the year 2000 and 2100 there will be another sevenfold increase. By the end of this century, we will be extracting and using something like 350 billion tons of material per year. That is unsustainable. Our entire resource system will collapse if there are no significant changes.”

Biomass India is specifically focusing on eliminating the burning of rice straw waste. In India, 35 million tons of rice straw waste is burned every year. We need to transform that system into a new system where products can be produced from sustainable sources and reused. Agricultural waste is one of the first places we can start. The reason is that it is an abundant and distributed resource that is available in every country in the world.

By 2030, 6.8 billion tons of agricultural waste will be produced worldwide. About 2 billion tons of that waste will be burned. In which CO2 and toxic gases are released into the atmosphere. Alternatively, we can turn it into circular products with huge potential.”

Would you recommend other entrepreneurs to join Biomass India, if so, why? “Given the challenges facing humanity and our planet, we need very talented and motivated people. The example above is just one example of the transition we need to make to eventually achieve a global materials reuse system that is truly workable for the future. It is something that we need to get right. If an entrepreneur wants to make an impact and build a commercially successful business, I think this whole area of circular manufacturing or service delivery holds tremendous promise.”

You are based in California and you have also recently settled in the Netherlands. What brings you to the Netherlands and what do you think about the collaboration? “First of all, regarding climate change and climate solutions. The Netherlands, and Europe in general, are currently leading the world in taking more responsibility for protecting our environment. Second, the Dutch have technological solutions with enormous potential and scalability.

I am really impressed by the technical capabilities of organizations we have met. The Dutch are generally strong in design and engineering. And, in the field of agriculture and horticulture, there is a lot of great innovation. We see less experience in developing total solutions that include all the elements needed to bring the technology to a developing country. It is not easy to implement innovative technologies in a developing country. Right now there are gaps between the technical capacity and what is needed to drive adoption in a developing country. We are very keen to work with Dutch companies to close that gap.”

NLWorks helps build business with impact. Mainly through a supportive role. How have you experienced working with NLWorks over the past year? “We have a great relationship with NLWorks. They have been extremely supportive in terms of business development. A great sparring partner when it comes to thinking through how we can bring certain technology solutions to a particular market. NLWorks helps gain access to those markets. We can also call on NLWorks for scaling up complete solutions.”