|Priya Gandhi, September 2015|
Priya Gandhi joined the Re-Nuble team in July 2015 as a research and laboratory technician. We took a few minutes to sit down with Priya and understand what her work entails, where she hopes Re-Nuble goes in the future, and her favorite (and least favorite!) aspects of the job.
Where are you from? What led you to join Re-Nuble?
Priya: I’m from India. I completed my university studies in Bangalore, though I am from a different part of the country. I came to Columbia University to get my Masters degree in Chemical Engineering, and saw the Re-Nuble posting online. I’ve always been interested in doing something positive for the environment, and I’m excited to use my education in that way with Re-Nuble.
What does your job entail?
Priya: Right now, a large component of my job is lab based, as I am testing the variables that go into the Re-Nuble core products, such as NPK, pH and EC for our prepared samples. When I first started, the company had developed a formula, but then realized that the nitrogen uptake was not sufficient. That’s a common problem in vegetative formulas. I’m now working with different types of nitrogen to see which combination(s) provide the needed uptake without too much acidity or basicity, bacteria or harmful fungi – basically everything that is required by OMRI. Every sample takes time to grow and everything I do to the samples needs to be thoroughly documented. It’s very trial intensive.
When do Re-Nuble products go on sale? What will you be working on until then? Priya: Re-Nuble products should be on sale for anyone to purchase in about two months. Until then, I will continue on my current trial work and research based projects . I’m also working directly with users to incorporate their feedback and see how we can cater our formulas to their needs. After that, it’ll be a matter of scaling our work to meet demand.
What’s the toughest part of your job?
Priya: Honestly, working with food waste. It gets nasty sometimes. In these early stages, it also leaves a lot of room for errors.
What gives you confidence that your work will be a success?
Priya: Well, for one thing, Tinia and one of her previous colleagues have demonstrated before that the process works in small batches.
Actual Re-Nuble yield
The key at this point is to automate, scale, and ensure replicability and safety in the formulas. From a chemical standpoint, all of these are achievable with the vegetative and supplement inputs Re-Nuble is committed to using.
What is your favorite part about working for Re-Nuble?
Priya: The mission. Reusing food waste this way is honestly an awesome application to creating a more sustainable food cycle. Every country has some element of food waste, so if we can repurpose what would otherwise be thrown out, I think we are working towards something really great. This kind of work really shows everyone – lay people, farmers, politicians, everyone – the potential of what we throw away.
If you had $1,000,000 to spend on Re-Nuble however you wanted, what would you do and why?
Priya: You know, I would actually continue to fund the R&D side of what we’re doing because there is not a lot of research on projects like this. If we had $1,000,000, I would put that towards a facility that would allow us to generate as much data as possible to test our hypotheses. I’d also invest in different equipment set-ups and get a bigger space to experiment more with the hardware. There are so many organizations and people that could use the data we produce, like the US Department of Agriculture, tech firms, farms of all sizes, and politicians. If we had the money to generate an abundance of data, we could also start to expand internationally where the vegetative inputs change.