With the motivation to develop sustainable and meaningful solutions to the disposal problem described above, eco:fibr was created. The company has developed an environmentally friendly process to extract pulp from the residues of the pineapple plant. This enables them to offer the paper and cardboard industry a sustainable alternative to conventional pulp made from wood.

Interview with Merit Ulmer, Co-Founder & CEO of eco:fibr GmbH.

Easy Engineering: A brief description of the company and its activities.

Merit Ulmer: The eco:fibr GmbH is a German, Hannover based start-up. In 2017 they started as a university project to work on the usage of residual material. In 2018 Costa Rican researchers told Merit Ulmer and Niklas Tegtmeier that they have got an enormous problem with pineapple leaves after the harvest and that they must be first chemically dried and are afterwards still often burned. This harms the environment and health of people. Beginning from this the Team started to develop a process to extract pulp from the pineapple leaves. Now the process is fully developed in the laboratories and the team starts to build up a pilot production to produce first tons of the pulp. As a market the paper industry has a high demand, and the market entry will take place within the specialty paper industry. The company was founded in April 2022 by Merit Ulmer, Michelle Spitzer and Julian Kolbeck. Niklas Tegtmeier is their first employee. The team closed its first financing round in May 2023 with 340.000 €.

E.E: What are the main areas of activity of the company?

M.U: The main areas of activity of eco:fibr is the production of pulp for the paper industry. Furthermore, they are doing research and development on side streams like lignin, bromelain and others. The founders commit themselves also to the education of students to show them that founding is a possible path for them. Moreover, Merit Ulmer and Michelle Spitzer dedicate themselves to women empowerment and female entrepreneurship.

E.E: What’s the news about new products?

M.U: The pulp eco:fibr produces is 100% made of residual pineapple leaves, providing high stability properties and is a chemically extracted pulp.

E.E: What are the ranges of products?

M.U: In the first step eco:fibr will start their market entry in 2026 with the above mentioned pulp from residual pineapple leaves. In the future side streams are also possible and the process can be used for other waste streams. Their mission is “turning waste into purpose”

E.E: At what stage is the market where you are currently active?

M.U: The paper industry has a high demand for new raw materials also due to wood competition and the low availability of high quality recycled fibers. Moreover, the market is also in a shift towards more sustainability.

E.E: What estimations do you have for 2023?

M.U: In 2023 we will build up our pilot production together with our cooperation partners with expertise in upscaling, resource efficiency, our pilot customers and partner plantations in Costa Rica. With the beginning of 2024 we aim to be able to conduct the first paper machine tests with our pilot customers and proof the runnability of our pulp in industrial scale.

Call 2 Action

At the moment we are working on different side topics too. We want to find collaboration partners to find together a solution for harvesting the pineapple plants from the fields in an efficient way. Moreover, we will start our next financing round next year to finance the construction of our first production facility in Costa Rica for our go-to-market.