Luna Yu has never doubted her shot at the Women in Cleantech Challenge crown. Working as she does every day from her labs at the Banting and Best Centre in downtown Toronto, Luna plays an active role in advancing Canada’s sustainable industries.
“When I heard about the challenge, I knew my company was a perfect fit,” Luna tells us. “The advancements we’ve made in only the last two years can help take cleantech to new heights.”
Luna is founder and CEO of Genecis Bioindustries, a startup that uses bacteria to upcycle organic waste (like food scraps) into bioplastics (renewable materials that can be used to craft everything from party cups to 3D-printing filaments). Today, most plastics are made from crops like corn and sugar cane — an expensive and environmentally taxing task. Genecis’s tech, on the other hand, is environmentally sound and has the potential to offset 40 per cent of typical bioplastic production costs.
This past September, Luna became one of six finalists for the Women in Cleantech Challenge, impressing a panel of esteemed judges, including legendary author and entrepreneur, Margaret Atwood. Her reward: funding, guidance and support from MaRS and the government of Canada (valued together at up to $800,000), all of it culminating with her chance to win $1 million and the title of Challenge Champion.
Over the next two years, Luna and her team plan to use their newfound resources to build a demonstration plant, upscale their process and develop more bacterial databases. In five years, Luna hopes to be operating on an industrial level, generating new bacteria at rapid speeds and producing higher-value bioplastics as her technology progresses.
And while Luna’s eyes are set on victory, she’s also taking this time to learn from her cohort of finalists.
“This a great group of women — we’ve been sharing a lot of knowledge with each other,” Luna says. “To be honest, I don’t think there’s much difference between male and female entrepreneurs.”
“All the more reason to give women like us the opportunity.”