Plantee Bioplastics receives $138,000 grant from Government of Canada

Posted on June 26, 2019


The founders of Plantee Bioplastics, a startup venture led by Queen’s chemical engineering alumnus Dr. Praphulla Tiwary and Queen’s chemistry alumnus Dr. Prashant Agrawal, have received a $138,000 grant from Fisheries and Oceans Canada to be used in the development of a new type of monofilament fishing line that will dissolve in water over a short period of time. The Canada-wide Plastics Challenge event seeks economically and technically viable innovations in fishing and aquaculture gear or gear-related technologies to reduce or eliminate ghost fishing and aquatic plastic pollution caused by the Canadian fisheries and aquaculture industries.

The grant was announced by Kingston and the Islands MP Mark Gerretsen at Innovation Park in Kingston, June 25.  

“I don’t think many people have ever thought of fishing lines being a pollutant,” says Gerretsen. “I can just imagine how much plastic has been left in our freshwater and in our oceans just from fishing lines. To see a company that is investing in ways to reduce that consumption by making fishing lines biodegradable is inspirational and fits right in line with what the Government of Canada is trying to achieve.”

 Fishing line is typically made from synthetic polymers like nylon, polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF), or polyethylene. These plastics can take hundreds of years to decompose when lost in rivers, lakes, or oceans. During that time, they can become tangled around the bodies or accumulate in and obstruct the digestive tracts of marine animals, potentially causing long and agonizing death. A formulation for a line that is strong and durable enough for fishing, that remains stable in dry storage, but that dissolves reasonably quickly if lost in water could prevent this suffering and help to keep waterways safe and clean for people and animals alike. That is what the scientists behind Plantee are working to bring to the marketplace.  

 Agrawal says the idea was sparked on a series of fishing trips he and Tiwary took to Port Hope.

 “We encountered a bunch of fishing lines lying around the lake which we all know is detrimental to oceanic life,” says Agrawal. “That gave us the idea of combining our expertise to come up with something that could degrade in water.”

 Agrawal and Tiwary, along with Plantee CEO Richard Chen, will use the Plastics Challenge grant funds to continue to prototype their bio-degradable fishing line. They say they are about half way through the rigorous testing needed to prove their concept and are hoping in the future to develop similarly biodegradable fish hooks, nets and other tackle.

Tiwary and Agrawal say they would like to thank Rick Boswell, Assistant Director, Innovation Park - Acceleration Programs and Incubation Facilities,; Scott Runté, CEO Launch Lab; the Department of Chemical Engineering at Queen’s; and the Department of Chemistry at Queen’s for supporting their venture so far. Tiwary and Agrawal would also like to thank Dr. Marianna Kontopoulou and Dr. Richard Oleschuk, their respective Ph.D. supervisors from their Queen’s days for exemplary mentorship.

“It all comes down to reducing the human impact on the environment,” says Tiwary. “We are grateful to the Government of Canada for providing this funding to prove our project and we hope funding continues in the future for companies like ours leading to the development of various new technologies and prototypes in the biodegradable polymer sector. It’s the way to go. It’s the future.”     

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 AN INVESTMENT IN THE ENVIRONMENT: Kingston and the Islands MP Mark Gerretsen announced the grant with Plantee Bioplastic’s co-founders Praphulla Tiwary and Prashant Agrawal at Innovation Park in Kingston on June 25.

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BEST OF BOTH WORLDS: Plantee Bioplastic’s co-founders Praphulla Tiwary and Prashant Agrawal are looking to tackle plastic pollution at its source by developing fishing line and tackle that dissolves in water when lost rather than posing a long-term hazard to marine life.