TOPEKA, KAN. — On March 16, accelerator Plug and Play Topeka announced that its recent graduate StenCo LLC, a sustainable, biodegradable packaging startup, will partner with Cargill Inc., a founding partner of the accelerator.

Through the partnership, StenCo will develop an oxygen-excluding, biodegradable barrier for many of Cargill’s products.

“Cargill is focused on exploring the many advances in science and technology that enable the development of new products, ways of working and solutions for our customers,” said Florian Schattenmann, chief technology officer and vice president of research and development, Cargill. “We are excited to partner our R&D capabilities with StenCo’s team of innovators, with the goal of jointly bringing cost-efficient, sustainable innovations to market.”

According to Plug and Play Topeka, Cargill and StenCo’s partnership will accelerate innovation in sustainable packaging capabilities by overcoming the challenge of creating biodegradable packaging for products that contain high water content. Cargill will aid in StenCo’s global reach, allowing the startup to find new customers, and will also bring scale and expertise to the startup’s operations.

“It’s exciting to see this partnership come to fruition, as it represents the power of our Topeka accelerator,” said Lindsay Lebahn, program manager, Plug and Play Topeka. “Seeing our corporate partners want to engage at this level with the program’s participating startups is exactly why we do what we do. It points to the quality of startups we’re bringing to the area, and to the innovative ideas and products each one brings to the table. We hope this is just the beginning of many more strategic partnerships to come.”

As part of its mission to create opportunities for startups, including forging partnerships, Plug and Play Topeka selected StenCo to participate in its first cohort in April 2021.

“StenCo’s mission is to create packaging materials that are better for the environment, focusing on affordability and sustainability while protecting the products of world-class consumer brands like Cargill,” said John Brown, chief executive officer, StenCo. “We greatly look forward to working closely with Cargill’s industry-leading R&D and technology teams to create an oxygen-excluding, biodegradable barrier for Cargill’s packaging materials. Working with Plug and Play, GO Topeka and Cargill has been an exceptional experience, and we are extremely excited to develop the partnership further.”

With an ever-rising consumer focus on sustainability, Cargill has remained diligent on its environmental impact.

“Sustainability and greenhouse gas reduction are top priorities for Cargill, customers and consumers,” said Heather Tansey, vice president of environmental sustainability, Cargill. “We are committed to collaboration across our complete supply chain to address sustainability challenges, including packaging innovations and materials-use reduction. Early-stage partnerships such as this enable Cargill to explore and support potential industry-changing efforts.”

The Plug and Play Topeka is a three-month-long program that provides startups with mentorship, resources and office space. Currently, the accelerator program has a 70% success rate, based on capital raised. In February 2022, GO Topeka announced the companies participating in Plug and Play Topeka’s third cohort.

“Partnerships like these are precisely why GO Topeka is proud to have the Plug and Play animal health accelerator in our city,” said Molly Howey, president, GO Topeka. “StenCo represents the future of sustainable packaging, and their innovative processes are going to elevate Cargill’s ability to address supply chain sustainability issues. We look forward to working with the StenCo team to continue showing them our community’s value as they grow and expand in the years to come.”

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