After 30 years in the construction products industry, Joanne Rodriguez identified the need and opportunity to innovate how companies manage waste streams in the roofing and construction industries, while developing a sustainable path for managing material reuse.
We are talking about an Engineered Ecosystem© designed to utilize mycelium root to render roofing and construction waste streams clean enough to meet new manufacturing specifications, establishing a closed loop material economy as a result.
Joanne is a LatinX Incubator alumni.
Now, Mycocycle™, her company, is a finalist in three categories for Fast Company’s “World Changing Ideas Awards 2020.” Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas awards honor products, concepts, companies, policies, and designs that are pursuing innovation for the good of society and the planet.
The contest, now in its fourth year, has honored everything from large companies’ sustainability initiatives to clever consumer products to groundbreaking government policies.
There are many problems in the world, and Fast Company is interested in innovative ideas that solve any of them.
What is Mycocycle™?
Mycocycle™ is a waste-to-resource process that uses mycoremediation (fungi) to remove harmful toxins out of trash.
Up until now, the roofing industry has not been able to achieve zero-waste because the products manufactured were ultimately contaminated with asphalt. And roofing materials are just one segment of a larger construction & demolition waste stream—much of it containing similar harmful environmental toxins.
Mycocycle™ addresses this problem head-on by remediating these toxins, diverting waste volumes from landfill, and creating valuable end use markets.
Now this company can treat a ton of waste in a cost effective manner while also harvesting profitable biomaterial: allowing the process to further pay for itself within the closed-loop ecosystem.
To encourage entrepreneurs to participate in LatinX Incubator, we believed it important to tell on our blog the incredible story of Mycocycle™.
In addition, we interviewed it’s founder, Joanne Rodriguez, about the experience of having participated in Latinx.
Joanne has over 30 years of experience in construction products and materials. Her expertise in developing programs for business development, as well as leading in the sustainability space, makes her well poised to discuss the pressing need to develop a solution set around these material waste streams, as well as to equate the positive environmental benefits to ROI.
Joanne is a LEED Accredited Professional through the USGBC, a Certified Permaculture Designer, a Construction Document Specialist, a Climate Reality Leader as well as a frequent speaker and educator on issues around sustainability and the built environment, climate change advocacy, and policy influence.
Solutions made through nature
Mycocycle™ develops and commercializes technologies utilizing the science of mycology.
Eliminating a significant strain on our ecosystem, our process diverts materials from landfills through bioremediation, allowing for reuse as a feedstock in manufacturing, or to be recycled in other applications.
- Reduce Waste: Mycocylce facilitates the remediation of toxic constituents out of materials through the utilization of an engineered ecosystem.
- Improve Sustainability: The goal is to contribute to a closed-loop supply chain, converting waste into non-toxic materials for reuse.
- Help the Planet. Mycocycle is addressing the breakdown of harmful chemicals. Potentially eliminating million tons of solid waste per year.
Take trash and make treasure
Mycocycle’s process promotes a closed loop supply chain, converting carbon waste to a usable by-product.
The patent-pending process facilitates the remediation of toxic chemicals out of landfilled waste materials: developing new, sustainable value streams, through the use of our Engineered Ecosystem©.
Shifting the paradigm on how Mycocycle™ view and treat waste, we can impact the planet, people, and profit by removing carbon from waste to create a valuable, low-emission byproduct–using mushrooms.
The annual capacity of solid waste disposal market to hit 4.5 billion tons by 2024.
Read Joanne’s full response below. The questions were formulated by the IHCC team and responded back to us by email.
How and where did you find the information to apply in LatinX Incubator?
I had the opportunity to attend Governor Pritzker’s inauguration in Springfield and met Jaime Di Paulo at the event. We exchanged information and not a month later I was getting information about IHCC and the LatinX incubator.
Why did you apply?
I applied because I wanted the experience of going through an incubator in the Midwest, supporting “non-traditional” startups, as opposed to the west coast. I had previously been accepted to IndieBio in San Francisco but that required spending 4-months in San Francisco. While the ecosystem there is robust, I tend to think I fit very well into the Midwestern ways of hard work and I wanted to see Chicago become a Cleantech innovation hub. LatinX presented the first opportunity to do so—and I took it!
How would you define your experience during the work and learning process?
I can easily say being a year out of the program and having been engaged in a national accelerator following Latinx—it was an amazing process! It set the bar high and left other programs wanting. The programming, the speakers, the mentors, the information share—the camaraderie developed…I haven’t found anything comparable. I have so much gratitude to have been welcomed into LatinX and am anxious to pay it forward. The learning process was well thought and for an incubator where Founders had different levels of experiences or in different stages of organization, I felt like each week presented the right amount of information and challenge.
What do you think was more useful during the 12 weeks of work?
I thought Liana Bran, and all of the IHCC staff, was the glue that brought us together and afforded us the collaborative experience. My colleagues in Cohort 5 (the FAB FIVE) brought such a depth of experiences, the companies engaged really made the 12 weeks work for me.
Would you recommend others to apply?
100%, no doubt.
What was the value of being in the LatinX Incubator at the later stage of business?
I, meaning Mycocycle, wasn’t at a later stage of business. I definitely had been through the ideation stages and prototyping for our process when I entered into LatinX, but we were still pretty green in terms of being a business—meaning a little more than an idea. But ME, Joanne Rodriguez, I was definitely at the later stage of business—I had already been in business settings and leadership positions for 30-years. LatinX, for me as a Founder having been in and around corporate business for so long, helped me hit a reset and think more practically about what I needed, and more importantly, what our markets needed. It is one thing to have a great idea, it is another thing to have a market for it and a market willing to spend money on it. And starting a business from scratch—that is hard and I have a much greater appreciation for businesses who grind it out every single day. LatinX helped “unprogram” some assumptions and allow me to view a startup business differently.
What business decisions did you make after leaving the Incubator to improve the profitability of your company?
Ideologically, I’d have to say the Incubator has guided me to view my business as profitable form day one. Every ounce of thought, effort, elbow grease, network, process development…it all has a value that adds to the bottomline. So maybe not profitable in a dollar and cents way, but profitable from a foundational perspective in that we are building a frontier technology, in a white space, with a lot of unknowns, while building a company and still here slugging it out. The Incubator made me more scrappy than I already was. You have to dig deep for all that you have.
How was the growth of your company after this process?
Phenomenal! The depths of my gratitude for all that LatinX gave me, it was truly a launch pad. You do get out what you put in, and I came out winner of our showcase. From there, the growth and awareness has been a steady progression—deliberate and built to last the test of time.
The Latinx Incubator is a first-of-its-kind partnership between Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (IHCC) and 1871. The mission of the incubator is to grow the pipeline of Latinx entrepreneurs participating in and contributing to the Chicago tech and innovation economy. Interested startups will be required to complete an application through 1871. To receive a link to this application, please click here.