How many times have you witnessed something wasteful and thought to yourself, “Dang, that’s a shame.”? Speaking for myself, I feel this way at least once a week. From the huge box that shipped a tiny item, to the unnecessary plastic food packaging, and even the citrus peels that can’t be composted…there is potential hiding in every single one of these examples. But how often are we motivated enough to take action and do something about all that waste?
Today we’re traveling to Alto Valle, Argentina, where a delightful man and wife duo are channeling their urge to solve a regional problem, and transforming it into a small business and lasting legacy.
José Alberto Aramberri and his wife Cristina live in a fertile valley in Argentina that happens to have the ideal conditions for apple and pear trees to grow. Because of these perfect growing conditions, there also happen to be several cider mills and juice companies in Alto Valle, too.
After the cideries have extracted the juice from the fruit, what’s left becomes a pulpy mixture of skins and seeds called pomace. Pomace tends to clog up their pressing machines, so they add some water back into it, making it easier to pass through. And as a result, they wind up with an overwhelming excess of goopy fruit waste. Some of it gets composted, some gets made into vinegar, and some… gets dried and turned into logs? Yep, it sure does, thanks to our friend José!
An innovative alternative to firewood and charcoal
José has invented an all-natural process to turn all that pasty, potentially wasteful pomace into logs that can be used as a heat source and for cooking.
Since the cideries must add water to the pomace to clear out their machines, the product that gets dropped off to José is quite soupy. Using ovens proved to be expensive, so he had to figure out a cost-effective way to dry it. As it turns out, nature held the answer.
José uses the power of the sun and wind to dry out the pomace for the first round. Then the pomace runs through a machine (which José invented!) that spreads it onto a grassy field and cuts the pomace into bricks like a cookie cutter. Once the humidity has reached the right dryness, poof! You have an earth-friendly, firewood alternative that doesn’t involve cutting down a single tree.
So you’ve created something awesome, what’s next?
José’s innovative approach to what others would call “waste”, is now a business: Biot! Together, he and his wife Cristine are turning a once unrecognized byproduct into a valuable resource!
Argentina is one of the Barbeque capitals of the world. Slow cooked meat over wood fire is a staple cuisine in traditional Argentinian cooking, so it can be a hard sell to convince people to try Biot logs over their beloved firewood. But, after making the rounds to local restaurants and asking people to give it a try, most folks admitted that there was no difference in the way their food tasted when BBQing with the Biot logs versus traditional firewood. Only those with a very refined palette were able to point out a slight fruity aroma. (Which actually sounds pretty yummy if you ask me.)
Biot sells their pomace logs to restaurants and locals for their BBQs, and to homeowners as a heat source, too. Biot has even partnered with the government in a program that gave free pomace logs to vulnerable families, warming their homes, and unknowingly, warming our hearts as well.
See the juicy details for yourself!
In this short video by Business Insider, we get to meet José and Cristine. Watch to see the pomace log making process from start to finish, and discover what sparked their curiosity to do this in the first place.
For more up close looks at innovative businesses making the world a better place in their own unique ways, check out Business Insider’s YouTube Channel!
Fueling Innovation with Passion
Wasn’t that remarkable to watch? I found it very inspiring to see someone who seems like they could be your favorite uncle come up with a practical solution for using some of the 75,000 metric tons of Alto Valle’s excess fruit pulp.
It’s clear that José is 100% about the passion, and 0% about the pressure.
As he points out in the video, José recognizes that Biot is a difficult business to scale due to the slow natural process. But rather than focus on the fact that the business won’t make him a billionaire during his lifetime, he celebrates that he is leaving his positive mark on the world. And when you cut things down to the core, even if it’s on a small scale, taking action toward a brighter future is always a legacy worth leaving behind.
José and Cristine have laid down the groundwork for the next generation to learn from. There’s no doubt in my mind that soon, someone somewhere will be inspired to take on the challenge and make Biot logs, or log-making technology, available worldwide. In the meantime, let’s all take a queue from their humility, ingenuity, and compassion, and use what we have available to us to create something awesome for the world.
Keep dreaming and notice the beauty around you!
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Published: June 20, 2022
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