Farm to Flame wins competitive $100,000 EPA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant

two founders sitting a computers
Will McKnight and Kwaku Jyamfi as student founders at Syracuse University

The Farm to Flame Energy team of President and CEO Kwaku Jyamfi ’18 (Computer Science and Engineering), Co-founder and advisor Will McKnight ’19 (Maxwell) and CFO Stefano Alva won a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I EPA Grant for $100,000 to help commercialize its fuel processor which provides scalable, end-to-end electricity generation systems for underserved communities.  These grants are highly selective, with only one or two awarded per state per cycle. 

Jyamfi and McKnight developed Farm to Flame as student founders at Syracuse University.  Jyamfi continued working on the venture as a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon where he met Alva.  McKnight and Jyamfi were very engaged with the SU campus innovation ecosystem as students where they incubated the venture, and continued to stay engaged with the SU community.  The team competed in numerous campus events such as the Impact Prize and won the campus Hult Prize competition, advancing to the Hult Prize global regionals.  After graduation, they continued to win awards at national energy competitions as they worked at building the prototype and achieving proof of concept.

The team did extensive research and discovery as it built the venture. As the global power generation market continues to grow, hundreds of millions of people are still facing electricity supply deficits.  Farm to Flame Energy created a sustainable solution that addresses both resource management and the gap of accessible and affordable renewable baseload capacity.  Farm to Flame Energy offers a novel combustion that enables biomass from construction, food processing and agricultural waste streams to be transformed to extremely affordable electricity at record low-emissions.  Farm to Flame briquettes burn cleaner than wood, charcoal and wood pellets, and are capable of providing an alternative to the 2.5 billion people that rely on solid biomass to cook their meals.

The SBIR funding will help with developing new applications that will push the state-of-the art in the biomass combustion field using machine learning, neural network algorithms, LIDAR sensors and other technical advancements. The company has already built a 28W lab-scale generator and is now pursuing a path to market working with small businesses, farms, local governments and educational institutions that want to offset their energy expenditures and create energy independence.  

The company established a partnership to deploy its generator through the Syracuse Center of Excellence and secured a long-term generating agreement with the University of Calabar, Nigeria.

As it continues along its path to commercialization, Farm to Flame briquettes will be tested on farms and then distributed through retailers and e-commerce channels.

EPA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program provides grants to help develop and commercialize novel technologies that support EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment. EPA is one of 11 federal agencies that participate in the SBIR Program established by the Small Business Innovation Development Act of 1982. EPA issues annual solicitations for Phase I and Phase II research proposals from science and technology-based firms. Phase II contracts are limited to small businesses that have successfully completed their Phase I projects.

Read the Farm to Flame startup story here and  here.