University of Tennessee President Randy Boyd stopped at Genera, a Tennessee-based ag fiber manufacturer, to learn how University of Tennessee, Knoxville graduates are working to make life more sustainable.
The visit was stop number four of Boyd’s “Everywhere You Look, UT” tour, a three-month statewide trek to more than 50 counties to celebrate UT’s impact across Tennessee.
Kelly Tiller, UT Knoxville graduate and president and CEO of Genera, explained to Boyd and attendees the importance of domestically sourced and produced ag-based pulp and molded fiber products.
“Wouldn’t you rather have a product made solely from grass against your skin rather than something that has been bleached and processed?” Tiller said.
Tiller founded Genera while on faculty at the UT Institute of Agriculture through University of Tennessee Research Foundation in 2008 before expanding to facilities in Vonore, Tennessee, in 2012.
Boyd examined Genera’s products including food service tableware, to-go containers, packaging, paper, tissues and more that are made out of switchgrass, which is biodegradable and compostable.
Jackson, a UT Knoxville graduate and Genera’s vice president of business development, informed Boyd the company is now “shipping truckloads of its to-go containers to fast food chains around the state, local restaurants and to Amazon”. Genera employs 82 people and is rapidly growing, currently expanding its production facilities with another 50,000-square-foot building. Tiller said they “have a laundry list of possibilities they can produce” to make life cleaner through products not offered anywhere else.