Home Syracuse University College of Law NYSTAR - New York State Foundation for Science, Technology & Innovation


1. What is Terrenew?

Terrenew is a biotechnology company based in Geneva, NY that has developed a process for converting agricultural wastes into biodegradable substances that neutralize toxins. The products created by Terrenew are derived from renewable resources, such as plants, manure and compost; and they clean the environment without leaving behind any harmful byproducts. Currently, Terrenew offers three product lines, each for a different type of contaminant: oil, metal and hydrogen sulfide.

(1) OilMaster products are super-absorbent; only 1 gram of OilMaster is needed per 4 grams of oil. Also, OilMaster products are biodegradable, which sets them apart from competing brands. OilMaster makes use of a plant-based chemical compound called ‘lignin’. The unique digestive tracts of cows digest much of the cellulose of the plants they eat and leave behind the lignin, which reacts to heavy metals, oils, and other liquids by binding to them. OilMaster can be applied either in loose granular form or as absorbent pads. After binding with the oil, it can be easily swept up and disposed of.

(2) MetalMaster was designed to clean contaminated ground water and industrial process water. It removes heavy metals from liquids through a similar application of lignin. Unlike OilMaster, though, the lignin in this product is obtained from aged waste tree bark. As contaminated water passes through a vessel full of MetalMaster, the heavy metals bind to the lignin there. The water that emerges is clear of pollutants, and the used MetalMaster product can usually be disposed of in a standard landfill without any concerns about heavy metals leaching away from the absorptive substance. Due to the variety and nature of the contaminants that exist, MetalMaster is custom-engineered for each heavy metal that must be removed.

(3) SulfaMaster was formulated to remove hydrogen sulfide gases from beneficial biogas, which is commonly found in landfills and farm anaerobic digesters. As microbes digest organic waste products, biogas is produced. This gas can be converted for use in energy production; however, it is laced with hydrogen sulfide, which is toxic, corrosive to metal, and detrimental to the energy efficiency of the gas. SulfaMaster uses iron to absorb the sulfur, and this product can be efficiently regenerated for up to six cycles. After the medium has been saturated with the sulfur that it has removed, it can be disposed of by dispersing the product back onto the farmland, since it is biodegradable and contains plant nutrients.

2. How was Terrenew created? What relationships and collaborative efforts were involved in bringing the technology to market?

The company was formed in 2005 as a result of patents developed at Cornell University. The original research was conducted by Gary Harman, Robert Patrick and Terry Spittler at Cornell’s laboratories. Much of the work was funded by grants from Terrenew and Cornell’s Center for Advanced Technology (CAT) in Biotechnology. Upon completion, Terrenew obtained exclusive licenses to use the patented technology in order to develop a commercially viable product and bring it to market.

3. Would you briefly describe Terrenew’s business plan?

Terrenew plans to expand the distribution of its technology to the national level. Its current product line is just a small part of the company’s larger goal of utilizing all agricultural waste produced on a farm for commercial purposes and, thereby, reducing it. The company plans to establish conversion systems on farms where manure is produced so that the conversion can be performed on location. By partnering with farmers, Terrenew would purchase all the converted products and distribute them to end-users.

Terrenew's overall marketing plan includes expanding the number of distributors across the country. As the company’s sales increase in certain parts of the country, production facilities on farms will be established in order to create regional distribution centers. Currently, the company hopes to create production facilities in the Southeast, Midwest, Southwest, and the West coast. As demand for its products increase, Terrenew plans to establish 6–12 facilities across the United States.

4. What is the current status of Terrenew?

The company has secured about $1 million in grants from various organizations, such as Cornell University, NY State Energy Research Development Authority (NYSERDA), the National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR), and the US Department of Agriculture Small Business Innovation Research Program (USDA-SBIR). The company expects to raise $1–2 million in grants over the next two years.

In November 2007, Terrenew and NYSERDA signed a $192,000 agreement to commence a project to clean the gas produced in a local landfill and thereby convert it into usable energy. Casella Waste Systems Inc. provided services to assist in funding the project. Terrenew’s role in this project is to remove hydrogen sulfide from the gases, which would allow for more efficient production of energy.

The company has also started its first commercial venture using MetalMaster. It has partnered with Day Environmental Inc. to remove chromium from groundwater at a site that is being cleaned up by the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Brownfield Cleanup Program.

Terrenew is continuing its distribution efforts and has succeeded in establishing a comprehensive network of suppliers in upstate New York that now carry OilMaster products for sale and use. It has expanded its distribution network to downstate New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Georgia and North Carolina. The company has obtained wider distribution by providing OilMaster to companies that have a national customer base.

5. Who is on the Terrenew team?

• Thomas Bourne, CEO
• Gary Harman, CSO
• Terry Spittler, Secretary-Treasurer

6. How was Terrenew named? And how was your logo designed?

The name ‘Terrenew’ was designed to combine the words ‘terre’, meaning "land", and ‘new’ to represent our central belief in renewing the earth. The logo represents a leaf because plant-derived wastes are the raw materials for our products.