From thesis to business
It all started with a desire and an original idea. In 2014, following a PhD in waste microbiology and professional experience in near infrared spectroscopy, Anthony Boulanger imagined using this powerful analysis technique to quickly analyze molecules (pollutants, volatile fatty acids) in organic matter (sludge, waste, water, soil, etc.).
The idea was an original one. Although the technique is well known in the food processing, petrochemical and pharmaceutical industries, its use remains rare in environmental applications. The field was open to the creation of a start-up. Still in close contact with his thesis supervisors at Irstea, Anthony set up his project while benefiting from their scientific and logistical support. The idea quickly seduced financiers and clients.
When start-ups and labs get on well
"Near infrared spectroscopy is a bit like Shazam for organic matter," explains Anthony Boulanger. Just as the software makes it possible to identify a song from a music sample, the near infrared spectrometer can scan a product and reveal its contents: percentage of water, fatty matter, etc. This apparent magic is built on comprehensive databases.
That is one of Greentropism's strong points. Hosted in Irstea's facilities, the start-up can create complete databases, meticulously updated through a partnership with the scientific teams. These are a precious asset. Although reference data is common currency in research institutes, it can be hard to obtain for a young start-up. However, with access to all the samples collected by Irstea's teams, Greentropism can test and improve the reliability of its tools.
The company signed a "Knowledge transfer agreement" with Irstea in June 2015, giving it the right to use the institute's tools in exchange for a licensing fee. This agreement benefits both parties: while it allows Greentropism to formalize its status as an analysis platform, it also provides Irstea with a good opportunity to enhance its skills and knowledge externally. As Anthony explains: "For us, being able to use the laboratories, protocols and expertise at Irstea, a leader in spectroscopy, is a precious and differentiating element."
And cooperation will not stop now as other joint projects are scheduled to be rolled out during 2015. In the meantime, the company is continuing to grow.
Founded only 18 months ago, the start-up already has 7 employees and offices across France and Asia. Recently awarded a prize in the "innovative sensor" category for a anaerobic digestion project with Engie R&D, the company is now holding significant discussions with large environmental groups who have clearly seen the analytical potential offered by this technology.
In offering a solution that not only avoids losses at the end of the production chain but also improves the quality of the end product, Greentropism has everything the major food processing and environmental companies could want.
The company offers direct analysis of the production line to measure, for example, the quality of milk production as well as to evaluate anaerobic digestion processes (monitoring intermediary molecules) or even the quality of digestate (measuring moisture content).
When applied to agriculture, the technology makes it possible to support harvesting (evaluating the ripeness of products) and crop processing (evaluating the phytosanitary or water needs of plants).
The technology is widely applicable, perfectly matching the current mood. We definitely haven't heard the last of it.
Consult the Greentropism website