“Replacing plastic everywhere all at once”: Fionnuala Quin (Fin) won’t rest until bioplastics have reached ubiquity

Holly Brooks
April 18, 2023

Revolutionary climate-tech startup Kelpy is on a mission to eliminate plastic packaging, replacing it with sustainably sourced, marine degradable seaweed bioplastics. 

Leading this mission is Fionnuala Quin (Fin), visionary entrepreneur and seaweed fanatic who learnt from an early age that the ocean is a lifeforce and must be protected.

Underpinning this sentiment is the fact that over 50% of the world’s oxygen is supplied by the ocean. 

But with 400 million tonnes of plastic waste being produced each year - 200 million of which end up in the ocean, our planet is both figuratively and literally choking on plastic. 

Kelpy is putting an end to plastic pollution with a world-first injection mouldable seaweed bioplastic solution that replicates the functionality of plastic without compromising our environment.

Since launching in early 2021, Fin has hit the ground running, receiving incredible reception, and selection into several world-leading Accelerator programs such as 100+Accelerator, Climate-KIC Launchpad Accelerator and Startmate’s Accelerator Program of course. Not to mention, the NSW MVP (Minimum Viable Product) Grant - supporting businesses in NSW to commercialise innovative products.

The reckoning

In 2020 Fin was living in Jervis Bay. Leaves were still smouldering from the bushfires and COVID-19 lockdowns had just begun. 

“It was a bit of a reckoning. The world seemed really messed up with everything that was going on. I just thought: I actually have to do something drastic to try and change it.”

“I spent a lot of time talking about nothing but seaweed and its regenerative properties.” 

“Seaweed is an abundant macro algae that plays a huge role in photosynthesising carbon dioxide, absorbing excess toxins and regulating our climate.”

“I knew seaweed bioplastics weren't a new concept but I was looking around and they were nowhere to be found. I could still see plastic packaging everywhere I turned. Something wasn’t connecting.”

Fin decided to tackle the hardest of them all: single-use hard plastics. 

Within a few weeks she had gathered a team of scientists, developed a go-to-market strategy, reached out to suppliers, dried and tested her own seaweed samples and pitched her idea to the Climate-KIC Accelerator. Wild. 

A circular value chain

Kelpy is targeting sustainability in all aspects of their business. 

“Once I had that initial validation, I became obsessed with the circularity opportunities that Kelpy could advance throughout its life cycle.”

“In terms of environmental sustainability, we’ve created something that draws down carbon, creates habitat, nourishes soil and helps plants grow. We’re building natural systems into the way that we consume.

“We’re also supporting best practice farming techniques and enabling social procurement. Making sure all our partners have a living wage and the skills and knowledge required to scale up production.”

There have been no shortcuts. Fin’s determination and depth of thought in establishing a sustainable alternative to fossil-fuel based plastics is likely one of the reasons she has generated global traction in such record time.  

She has some serious momentum behind her and 2023 is picking up turbo pace.

Vision, milestones and advice

When reflecting on her greatest lessons learnt throughout this whirlwind journey, Fin underscores the importance of self-care. 

“Do as much as you can when you can but make sure to take care of yourself along the way. If you don’t make it through, then this thing, that will have such a positive impact on the world, won’t happen.”

Thankfully, Fin’s self-care formula has worked wonders, landing her a place in the internationally renowned 100+ Accelerator. Fin is the first Australian to ever be selected - a huge milestone not only for herself, but for Australia and Australian startups at large.  

“I was in the car when I received the email for the 100+ Accelerator. I started squealing and gasping. If anyone saw me they would have thought there was something very wrong with me.”

Fin flew to Belgium last year for the kick off and has been piloting her seaweed bioplastic tech with Colgate Palmolive and Unilever as part of the Ab-InBev’s renowned commercialisation accelerator. She’ll be flying out to New York in September to showcase the trials with a vision for global commercialisation and mainstream application. 

In the short term, Kelpy is moving towards a cap raise in the coming months. 

The five year vision looks like: Global domination - Kelpy will have international partners replacing billions of plastic items throughout the world and supporting coastal communities most affected by climate change. 

Kelpy has set some ambitious goals for 2023 and beyond. Goals that will regenerate our oceans, rescue marine ecosystems and change the world. 

It’s going to be big. 

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