Keeping close to nature’s ways can be its own reward, and sometimes is rewarded on merit.

That was the case with Genera Energy Inc. as the Tennessee Wildlife Federation recognized the Vonore-based company as its statewide honoree for Conservation by Business.

The federation presented the award at the 54th annual Conservation Achievement Awards held May 10 in Nashville.

The federation is one of the largest and oldest nonprofits dedicated to the conservation of Tennessee’s wildlife and natural resources.

Its goals fit nicely with this agriculturally focused company that partners with regional farmers to produce fiber-based compostable products. Genera’s products include food service wares, paper towels and tissues, and packaging materials, including take-out containers.

“It has to do with the whole system that we’re using. We’re growing unique crops with environmental benefits, and farmers earn good money from that,” said Sam Jackson, Genera’s vice president of business development. “We actually turn crops into a fiber product. It’s really about conservation and producing agricultural material into sustainable products that people can use.”

The company’s foodservice products are fully compostable and biodegradable, breaking down in a compost facility within 90 days. They are a direct replacement for Styrofoam products that are widely used and degrade the environment, particularly waterways.

Innovation, conservation

Genera’s goal is to create sustainable biomass solutions, spurring agricultural innovations that significantly help conservation efforts in Tennessee by encouraging sustainable farming practices that also preserve wildlife habitat and restores land across the state.

Genera’s primary feedstocks, biomass sorghum, switchgrass and crop residues, have all been selected due to their fiber characteristics. But each feedstock also presents a unique profile in respect to its environmental impact. All the crops selected have high yields per acre, offering improved input and harvesting efficiency over most traditional crops.

Perennial crops offer reduced soil disturbance, improved wildlife habitat, little to no chemicals required, lower fertilization requirements and enhanced carbon sequestration characteristics. Other annual crops are low-input compared to traditional row crops and still offer significant environmental benefits such as reduced soil disturbance, drought resistance and reduced fertilization requirements.

The technology Genera has licensed to produce fiber from agricultural materials offers environmental benefits compared to the traditional fiber manufacturing processes. Key areas of improvement include significantly reduced carbon emissions, lower energy use and dramatically lower water use in the fiber production process.

Partnerships

The company has partnered with farmers throughout the region, including in Anderson, Blount, Bradley, Loudon, McMinn, Meigs, Monroe, Polk, Rhea and Roane counties. Additionally, the company said in a press release it has worked across the United States with a variety of partners on agriculturally based biomass and products.

“The diverse group of award winners today, including Genera, serves as a reminder that successful conservation will always depend on a diverse and collaborative effort,” said Michael Butler, CEO of the Tennessee Wildlife Federation. “Our honorees have conducted important field work, secured crucial support, educated the next generation and so much more.”

Kelly Tiller, Genera’s president and CEO said, “Genera is honored to be recognized by the federation for our work. Our company is focused on working with farmers to sustainably produce products that are useful to our local, regional and national communities. From the farm to our finished products, we work hard to ensure that we contribute positively to the regional agricultural community, soil and water health, and wildlife habitat.”

The event was sponsored by Bridgestone, BDY Natural Sciences Consultants and the National Wildlife Federation.

Bob has served in a variety of roles since joining The Daily Times in the 90s. He currently is editor of the business section. When someone gets promoted, retires or gets hired at a new job in Blount County, he's the man to email.

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