As media reports noted in early 2024,“incredibly unique” transformational packaging, containers and more are on deck and attracting national attention as the Knox County-based AgroRenew startup company firms up plans for a $83 million processing facility. Joining national media such as Plastics NewsInside Indiana Business reported that “The facility, which will ultimately span nearly 200,000-square-feet, will be used to repurpose food waste from the county’s watermelon, cantaloupe and pumpkin farms into biodegradable and sustainable plastics.”

Given its innovative, industry-changing potential, the announcement of AgroRenew’s environmentally friendly bioplastic products has attracted widespread media attention at regional and national levels. Co-founder Brian Southern told the popular Hoosier Ag Today radio program that the new company is taking  “watermelon waste and reducing it down into a micron dust and blending it with some other bio sources to form a resin polymer that can then be used to make various types of plastics.”

“Perfect location”

The biowaste material required for AgroRenew’s innovative product exists in ready abundance in the region, totaling more than 100 million pounds annually. “Knox County is the number one producer of watermelons in the state of Indiana and number two in the country,” Southern said in an interview, adding that the county is “the perfect location.”

In addition to finding strategic use for products that would otherwise be disposed of, AgroRenew will help create a new dimension of an environmentally sound model of a circular economy. Southern told Inside Indiana Business that the new company will not divert product “from the food supply chain” and is also working with regional melon farmers to  “explore opportunities for planting cover crops during the winter months.”

Circular economy model

The advantage of producing cover crops contributes directly to other biomaterials required for producing the new bioplastics process. The advantage? “That’s making it a full circular economy-type model, where we’re enabling those farmers to utilize their land 365 days out of the year and give them multiple crop opportunities that all lead to both food sales for their primary products, and then everything else coming to us as a biosource product for bioplastics.”

Southern and his partner Katie Southern, who is serving as AgroRenew’s Chief Science Officer, recognize The Pantheon, a local Knox County business incubator, as serving as a critical catalyst for planning and forming up critical production concepts. As reported by AgriNovus Indiana, Brian Southern said: “Our journey from concept to realization has been a remarkable testament to the power of innovation and collaboration at The Pantheon. With our cutting-edge processing plant, we aim to not only redefine the plastics industry but also contribute significantly to the local economy while prioritizing environmental sustainability.”

WTWO, a regional NBC affiliate, told viewers that “AgroRenew secured land in Knox County’s Industrial Park…and plans to break ground in early 2024.” As AgroRenew grows, it plans “to build out the facility in 4 phases,” eventually spanning 20 acres and employing nearly 250 people.

Katie Southern added in the WTWO interview that “The new plant will start with 102,000 square feet of production, quality team member area, office, and inhouse daycare.” WTWO also reported that “the company plans to establish a Bioplastics Innovation Center next to the processing facility. This 16,000 sq. ft. research facility will sit on 21 acres of experimental crop development; AgroRenew expects to hire an additional 22 science and engineering jobs.”

Major long-term benefits

As highlighted by AgriNovus Indiana, “The establishment of AgroRenew’s bioplastics manufacturing plant is expected to generate numerous benefits for Knox County and its residents, including the creation of new job opportunities, economic growth, and reduced environmental impact,” said Chris Pfaff, CEO of Knox County Indiana Economic Development. “As the company prepares to break ground and commence construction, anticipation is building for the positive transformation that this venture will bring to the region – including jobs, growth, and inspiration for future startups at The Pantheon.”

The initial November 3, 2023 announcement at The Pantheon in Vincennes was led by Mayor Joe Yochum and joined by area business professionals and leadership from Knox County Indiana Economic Development.

More information about AgroRenew plans and construction progress will be available on