Four MBA students — Austin Andreasen, Joanna Bieganska, Paola Gutierrez and Emilie Kongsore — were motivated by their passion for sustainability and global social economics to explore business opportunities for greener solutions for their capstone project. Their goal was to reduce plastic pollution and investigate potential business applications. During their research, they discovered an article about biodegradable plastic produced locally from cow manure.
The author of this innovative technology is Erik Coats, Ph.D., a professor of environmental engineering at the University of Idaho. His research team has developed a unique process to transform manure into polyhydroxyalkanoate, or PHA, a biodegradable plastic. In collaboration with Armando McDonald, Ph.D., a professor of renewable materials chemistry at U of I, the team is advancing a technology that they hope to see deployed across dairy farms.
Coats and McDonald agreed to collaborate with the MBA students and the students are working on a market entry strategy for the bioplastic material. Innovative approaches to bioplastic production not only require research to evaluate potential market segments but also an evaluation of customer perceptions of this unique material. The MBA team is using various resources in their project available on the Boise State campus including, consultations with COBE professors and mentorship from leaders at TechHelp and the New Product Development Lab.
“We appreciate all aspects of our project. We are contributing to something meaningful and at the same time, we have an opportunity to learn more about introducing innovative products to the market by following the lean launch methodology,” said Bieganska.