Sustainium is a Finalist in the 2021 Michigan Business Challenge – Seigle Impact Track

One of the finalists for The Seigle Impact Track finals that will take place on February 26, 2021 is Sustainium. Sustainium harnesses heat from spent nuclear fuel to dry wastewater sludge and turn it into a sustainable biomass like fertilizer or fuel. In the process, we turn two negatives into a positive through an innovative circular solution. Jacob Ladd (MS’20, JD’23), Luyao Li (MS’21), Anya Shapiro (MBA/MS ’22), Aniket Yadav (MS’21)

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What was the origin of your venture?
We won the Nuclear Waste Grand Challenge to re-imagine the future of nuclear waste. The origin was that we wanted to design a circular solution that harnesses two waste sources (nuclear waste and sewage sludge) to turn them into a profitable and sustainable biomass like fertilizer or fuel. We also wanted to de-risk nuclear energy and the waste it produces in order to meet a decarbonized future. Finally, we wanted to find a way to prevent dried wastewater sludge from ending up in a landfill and releasing methane.

What do you think will be the long-term impact of launching your venture?
Improving public perception of the nuclear energy industry (a critical part of the clean energy transition) and providing a reliable, low-cost, and clean energy source to dry wastewater sludge and divert it from ending up in a landfill.

How did you form your team?
We formed through a competition!

How has participation in MBC helped move your venture forward?
MBC has helped us solidify our business model and double down on how we will provide a positive impact beyond sustainability and profitability- considering critical factors like environmental justice and community welfare.

What has been your biggest takeaway from the MBC experience (so far)?
Impact and profitability can be synonymous.

What are your plans following MBC? How would prize money help your venture?
We will use the funds to build our first prototype of the technology and use it to pitch a pilot with several large utility companies in the Midwest. 

What advice do you have for other student entrepreneurs?
Form an interdisciplinary team, don’t be afraid of solving problems traditionally deemed “unsolvable”, and ask yourself the questions, “if not me, who?” “if not now, when?”