Photo: Ecomates

Ecomates: Energy for the food service industry

Ecomates is advancing the energy transition in the hospitality industry. The so-called smart degraders from the Munich-based startup are currently the smallest fully automated biogas plants, which help businesses to save not only emissions but also money. The founders told us how the idea came about, what grandma's garage has to do with it and how you can support the young company.

Munich Startup: What does Ecomates do? What problem do you solve?

Ecomates: At Ecomates, we develop decentralized, fully automated micro biogas plants. In doing so, we are addressing the social problem that only a small proportion of the energy potential of organic waste is currently being exploited in Germany. With our smart degrader, we are creating a new piece of the decentralized energy supply puzzle and making a contribution to the climate transition.

Our entry-level market is businesses in the hospitality industry. They benefit not only from greater self-sufficiency and annual CO2 savings of 14 tons of CO2e, but also financially. On the one hand, energy costs can be reduced by replacing fossil fuels, and on the other, the disposal costs for food waste are completely eliminated.

Munich Startup: Doesn’t that already exist?

Ecomates: There are large, commercial biogas plants as well as small, so-called low-tech biogas plants that require warm outside temperatures and a considerable amount of work from their users. Our smart degraders target a completely new segment somewhere in between. With a daily biowaste feed of 40 kilograms, we are the smallest fully automated solution on the market.

Tinkering Sunday in grandma’s garage

Munich Startup: What is your founding story?

Ecomates: It all started with a late night cooking session and a big pile of organic waste. Our co-founder and biochemistry student David was just about to dump said pile into his organic waste garbage can when he asked himself why such a valuable resource should be wasted. Why are there no solutions for producing and using biogas yourself? He told his school friends Eric and Valentin about his idea. It wasn’t long before “Tinkering Sunday” was established and they were busy developing in Grandma’s garage.

By a lucky coincidence and a little help from the Instagram algorithm, the three of them came across two students who were working on a similar idea at the same time. As Cosima and Isa also happened to be from Munich, three quickly became five. During their studies, the team developed several prototypes and produced their first own biogas. With the start of Munich University of Applied Sciences’ startup support accelerator program in September 2022, the hobby finally became a company.

A lot has changed since then. Ecomates was able to secure two government funding programs (Exist and Flügge) and now no longer works from grandma’s workshop or garage, but from its own office in the Precelerator building at Munich University of Applied Sciences. However, one thing has not changed: Cosima, David, Eric and Valentin still form the core team of Ecomates and are supported by freelancer Isa in the area of design.

Munich Startup: What have been your biggest challenges so far?

Ecomates: Therehasn’t been one biggest challenge so far. However, every day brings new challenges where we as a small team have to prioritize and weigh up what the next important steps are. This brings us one step closer to our vision every day: a world in which people live in harmony with themselves and the planet’s finite resources.

Ecomates is still looking for motivated colleagues

Munich Startup: Where would you like to be in one year, where would you like to be in five years?

Ecomates: In a year’s time, our pilot series should be ready for launch and installed at the first six pilot customers. We already have the first pilot projects on the horizon but are still looking for motivated partners. Whether it’s a large hotel with a restaurant, a pub, a company canteen or a communal catering facility – we welcome any new contact.

In five years’ time, the smart degrader will have been in series production and marketed for three years. Initially, our focus will have been on German companies, but now we want to start supplying the entire DACH region and ultimately the whole of Europe with smart degraders from Ecomates.

Munich Startup: How have you experienced Munich as a startup location so far?

Ecomates: Without the Munich University of Applied Sciences and the Strascheg Center for Entrepreneurship, we might still be tinkering in our garage today. The entire Munich ecosystem is a great source of motivation and inspiration for us.

Munich Startup: Public transportation or bicycle?

Ecomates: There’sa clear stalemate: two founding mates ride bikes, two prefer to use public transport. If there’s something bulky to transport, sometimes the car has to be used – but of course it has a biogas engine.

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