REMINERA: How A Stonemeal Startup Arose During A Time Of Pandemic
It was the beginning of the pandemic. My colleague, Nayara Mesquita, and I had recently defended our geosciences masters theses at the Federal University of Pernambuco (UFPE), and I was still figuring out my ‘next steps’ in life.
Always the multitasker, Nayara was already doing an MBA on leadership and sustainability, along with social entrepreneurship and environmental activism. She warmly invited me to join her and start studying stonemeal, food security and carbon sequestration.
We had heard about stonemeal just once or twice at university, and so it was still a relatively new field for us. It did not take much to fall in love with the subject, though.
As geologists, already we had been gaining new perspectives regarding the use of resources, paying more attention to social and environmental aspects within the mining sector. In recent years, our own country, Brazil, has experienced major tragedies involving waste dams, coastal oil spills, and a fast advance of an unsustainable agriculture model (which includes the burning of forests and overuse of pesticides). We were filled with a passionate sense of urgency.
In this context, stonemeal — a technique to increase soil fertility while reducing chemical fertilizers through such methods as remineralization — seemed reasonable. We could use our expertise with rocks for research into something that was not only environment-friendly but could revolutionize the way we produce food. Now we had a clear purpose.
Quite simply, focusing on the use of strategic and more abundant resources is the best shot to survival for our industries and for humanity writ large. Remineralization is an important tool in this quest.Valdielly Larisse SilvaWe started participating in events and connecting with stonemeal experts from within Brazil and around the world. For example, we corresponded with leading remineralization expert and research professor at the University of Brasilia, Suzi Theodoro. Her transdisciplinary approach, sense of purpose and social vision truly inspired us, and she introduced us to some of the needs of the Brazilian market concerning remineralizers.
She told us one day: “Why don’t you open a startup? The university may have a program.” That was just the ‘little push’ we needed. We invited a third partner to our team, Thales Lúcio, a geochemist doing a PhD at UFPE.
Together, we developed a project and applied to a UFPE startup program. And that is how REMINERA was born. Flash forward to today, and we offer consultancy and analytical services to investigate the potential of using rocks for stonemeal, as well as bureaucratic assistance for the registration of remineralizers and other natural agrominerals.
At REMINERA, we offer analytical services that help guarantee efficiency and safe use of remineralizer products. These services include petrographic, geochemical and other analyses, besides agronomic tests conducted in partnership with universities and research institutes.
One challenge stonemeal currently faces in Brazil is convincing the quarries to seek registration with the Ministry of Agriculture (MAPA). Some companies are selling rock dust without MAPA’s permission. While the obvious demand is a good sign, these clandestine sales may put inert and unsafe products into the market. This may jeopardize stonemeal’s reputation at the same time proponents are fighting to promote it. We advocate for the proper procedures.
REMINERA also advocates strongly for the use of discarded rock dust. Brazil is full of quarries with literally tons of materials practically ready for stonemeal — without much need of grinding or sieving.
However, another challenge is convincing companies to see the value in this material and understand how it is not waste. It requires a switch from the traditional way of dealing with rock fines (putting up tailing piles that take up space and suppress plant coverage) to the creation of new production lines.
At REMINERA, we believe that a circular and regenerative economy is key not only for the agricultural industry, but for the mining sector as well (not to mention the rest of society). Ores and rocks may take millions of years to be formed, sometimes under spectacular circumstances, and they should not go to waste.
Quite simply, focusing on the use of strategic and more abundant resources is the best shot to survival for our industries and for humanity writ large. Remineralization is an important tool in this quest.
REMINERA came to be during a pandemic. Working on it has instilled in me unprecedented awareness, hope and a growing will to promote this simple and integrated science-based solution. REMINERA projects an optimistic future — one with food security, a milder climate and a belief that Brazil will answer the call of sustainability.
Valdielly Larisse Silva is a geologist who graduated from the Federal University of Pernambuco (UFPE) in Brazil and received her MSc in Geosciences from the same institution in 2019. Inspired and encouraged by Suzi Huff Theodoro, Valdielly and other two colleagues (Nayara Mesquita and Thales Lúcio) founded the startup Reminera – Soluções em Agrogeologia. The enterprise is incubated at UFPE and helps Brazilian quarries and mining companies to fulfill requirements for regulation of soil remineralizers. Through analytical services and bureaucratic advice, Valdielly helps to guarantee that the remineralizers in the market are efficient and safe to use. As research database coordinator of RTE, she promotes and keeps on building our research database, following the path that has been a tremendous contribution of our previous directors, Veronika Miranda Chase and Lucas Pozzobon de Bem.