How mushrooms, magic and manure inspired an environmental entrepreneur.


Sitting in class one day, Justin Kamine was getting antsy. His college professor was lecturing on economic theory, hitting a number of esoteric points on the board that had to do with economic rational choice theory, a principle that assumes people make logical decisions. But to Kamine, the whole approach seemed a little…irrelevant.


“I asked him, ‘Can you relate any of this on the board to real life?’” Kamine remembers. “He said, ‘No.’ I actually packed up my bags, left class, went on to Ted.com and listened to a speech by Eben Bayer.”


Eight minutes and 56 seconds later, Kamine was on fire. Bayer’s TED Talk on the magic of mushrooms to replace Styrofoam (not that kind of magic, and not those kinds of mushrooms) catalyzed Kamine’s eureka moment.


“If mushrooms can transform the styrofoam industry,” Kamine wondered, “then what else [from nature] can transform all these other industries?”


By launching companies and investing in technology that uses nature to improve the environment, Kamine is proving that, regressive politics aside, sustainable technology is where the world is headed.


Raised on a New Jersey horse farm, Kamine grew up surrounded by animals and agriculture and caring deeply about the health of the planet. He studied environmental policy and business at Lafayette College, graduating just as solar emerged onto the scene as a viable — and profitable — renewable energy solution. The circumstances were ripe for Justin to join his father, a serial entrepreneur, and his brother Matt in an effort to get on the sustainable technology business’ ground floor. They seized the opportunity because it was profitable, but also because it was principled.


“Sustainable technologies are becoming more profitable than other business,” Kamine said. “How do we continue to help them grow and make the greatest impact? Well they need to be the most profitable, and therefore can then have the greatest impact. People aren’t just going to want to invest or change just because it’s the right thing to do.”


KDCag, the company Kamine owns with his father and brother, partnered with California Safe Soil to create a patented a technology that makes liquid fertilizer out of food waste. In a process inspired by the human digestive system (stay with us, here) their technology consumes food waste and breaks it down, generating a product that is easy to produce, good for the crops and great for the soil. Farmers love it because it’s cheap and results in higher crop yields.


Thankfully, Justin and his family are focused on creating economic opportunities out of environmental challenges. For Justin, sustainable agriculture isn’t a political issue. And it isn’t up for debate. It’s cheaper, it’s cleaner and it’s more effective. Period. Even if you’re resistant to talking about climate change — let’s say you’re more focused on jobs or the economy — Justin can meet you where you are.


“As a developer, I don’t need political arguments because everyone I’m working with knows, [sustainable technology] now makes economic sense,” he said. “People are investing money, people are getting jobs, and it’s developing the economy. And it’s now doing it at a faster rate than anything else in the market.”


Agricultural inefficiency is inspiring innovative solutions. Kamine is convinced, when it comes to saving jobs and the planet, there’s no reason to maintain business and usual and there’s no need to compromise. This is just one example of Kamine’s stubbornly optimistic millennial mindset, and the one reason he’s actually thankful for food waste.

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