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“At Nextevo, We Envision A Greener Future In Which Toxic, Waste-Generating Substances Are Reduced To A Minimum, Or Eliminated Altogether, From Our Daily Lives And The Industries”-Harold Koh

Interview With Harold Koh

Grevivals: Hi Harold, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us. Can you give our readers an introduction to your organization? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?

Harold Koh: Southeast Asia is one of the world’s largest agricultural hubs, where the countries combined are top producers for pineapples, coconuts, rice, sugar cane, palm oil, cassava, etc. It is unimaginable of the scale of agricultural waste generated in this region. Agricultural waste is commonly burnt, discarded into landfills and/or composted, resulting in the release of harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. NEXTEVO was founded to tackle environmental pollution and to drive positive social impact to farmers that work with us, while generating a meaningful profitable business. Our mission is to transform agricultural waste into sustainable value-added materials/products for everyday living and agricultural applications. Early November, we launched our sustainable textile fibers and yarns made from pineapple leaf waste, and they are suitable for the global textile industry.

What sets up apart from our competitors is our ability to achieve sustainability, scalability and functionality in our products. As NEXTEVO is focused on tackling environmental pollution and driving positive social impact, we are also making sure that our goals are aligned to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs). Out of 17 of them, we are currently looking at five of them in further detail, such as SDG 8 (Decent work and economic growth), 9 (Industry, innovation and infrastructure), 12 (Responsible consumption and production), 13 (Climate action) and 17 (Global partnerships).

NEXTEVO has plans to improve our production processes, from farm to fiber manufacturing. We are currently working on our life cycle assessment (LCA), together with a third-party accredited organization. This will help us to evaluate, design and further reduce environmental impacts across our supply chain.

Next, scalability is our key competitive advantage. As mentioned above, there is so much potential in sourcing agricultural waste raw materials in Southeast Asia. We are situated in the region with top producing pineapple countries, which includes Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, and the total amount of pineapples produced in these three countries adds up to 6.6 million metric tons. This FAO data shows that the three countries contribute around 90% of the total production in Southeast Asia and also 30% more than that of the entire production in Central America, the second largest pineapple producing region. Through my extensive network built up in the agricultural industry over the past decade, we are currently sourcing our pineapple leaf raw materials in both Thailand and Indonesia, and we have plans to source from other parts of Southeast Asia. We hope to impact more small-holder farmers as we continue to expand our sourcing.

Last, we are also making sure that while our products are creating an impactful sustainability story, the products must also have suitable and high functionality for different textile applications. For our pineapple leaf fiber (PALF) blended yarns, we currently blend with other eco-fibers such as lyocell and recycled polyester fibers. The main idea here is to combine the advantages of our PALF and other eco-fiber properties to achieve higher functional performance. Our PALF-recycled polyester blended yarn has undergone testing already and they have passed standard tests for footwear applications. This particular product has also shown interest by our upholstery customers due to its high durability.

Grevivals: You have 21 years of senior leadership experience as the President/CEO in three diverse industries within the Asia-Pacific region, namely in agriculture, load handling equipment, and automobiles. Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?

Harold Koh:

Interestingly, it never crossed my mind that I would end up in these three different industries throughout my entire career of 31 years which were:

  • 20 years in Automobile and the last nine years as CEOs of three different countries;
  • 2+ years as Hiab Asia Pacific President (in charge of nine country CEOs and overseeing several Asian exclusive distributors); and
  • 9 years as CEO of agriculture/FMCG overseeing over 60 markets globally.

Now, agricultural waste sustainability (NEXTEVO) will be my fourth industry, which is closely related to agriculture.

At Hiab Asia Pacific

When I was offered the President position of Hiab Asia Pacific, I thought this was a great opportunity. I was excited seeing a leap in career advancement, from managing a single country (General Motors Philippines Q4 1998 – mid-2002; General Motors Indonesia mid-2002 – mid-2005; and General Motors Singapore & regional exports mid-2005 – mid-2007) to managing the whole Asia Pacific region. This consisted of overseeing and expanding businesses across two continents.

I had decided to take up the challenge in the load handling equipment industry even though I knew it would be a different ball game as compared to the automobile industry. When I joined, I realized that it is not only was the nature of business is different, but its business culture, sales and production processes were entirely different from what I knew. The most challenging area was to convince my senior direct reports (most of them were country CEOs) my leadership as many viewed how a guy with no prior related experience in this field able to lead. I eventually overcame this and many of us ended up as good buddies up till today.

There were many challenges along the way but all could be solved except for one, which was leadership. This had to be proven before earning the respect of my team. I had learnt a lot throughout this journey, especially on how to lead the business growth for Asia Pacific.

At Great Giant Pineapple (GGP)

20 months later, I received an offer from an Indonesian conglomerate to be the President Director and CEO of Great Giant Pineapple, an agricultural and FMCG business. This is a vertically integrated pineapple company which manages its own farm to processing, and to exporting its produce. It took me five months to decide as I had no idea on leading an agriculture company. However, I was excited that the company was not only the world’s third largest pineapple producer with 12,000 employees, but also had potential to expand its global export further. I had then decided to take up the challenge and spent nine years in that role from Nov 2009 to Dec 2018. When I left the company, it achieved the second largest producer in the world in term of tonnage.

This was where I was deeply influenced by the importance of sustainability and the company had implemented many programs during my time. To name a few:

  • Zero Waste Practice by maximizing the usage of the entire pineapple plant. Besides harvesting the pineapple fruits, we also used the stems to extract bromelain enzymes and sold pineapple skin for animal feed. Leaves were used as compost.
  • Built a biogas plant to reduce the usage of coal generated power.
  • Grew a large-scale bamboo fence around riverbanks and reservoirs to prevent soil erosion and to help fight against global warming. Bamboo produces 35% more oxygen than trees. It can also absorb around 12 tonnes of carbon dioxide per hectare annually.
  • Reduced usage of deep wells (ground water) and improved capturing more surface water for reservoirs.
  • Enhanced the quality of life of farmers (employees) and community with clean water supply, healthcare and education scholarships.

Six months before I left GGP, I started to plan and wanted to start a business that would be closely related to sustainability that benefits the environment and farmers. I looked at several options including biomass. And after I left, I came across the idea of transforming agricultural waste to value-added products. Within a month of research and deep thinking, I decided to establish a startup for this new venture, called NEXTEVO.

In retrospect, my career timeline was driven purely by opportunities to do interesting and exciting things.

Grevivals: So let’s switch gears a bit and talk about “NEXTEVO”. What is the core philosophy of your organization?

Harold Koh: The core philosophy of our organization stems from three areas – People, Planet and Profit.

People: Through the collection of agricultural waste such as pineapple leaves and coconut husks, small-holder farmers working with us will be supplemented with extra income. In three years time, NEXTEVO aims to impact more than 5,000 pineapple and coconut farmers in Southeast Asia.

Planet: As one of the largest agricultural hubs in the world, significant volumes of agricultural waste are produced and they are commonly burnt or discarded into landfills and water bodies. This releases greenhouse gases and contributes to climate change in the long run. Through NEXTEVO’s business, collection of agricultural waste will help to reduce existing environmental problems and conserve the natural ecosystem.

Profit: Profit is a key driver at NEXTEVO, and we want to demonstrate that business and sustainability can go hand-in-hand.

Grevivals: You have brought to NEXTEVO a wealth of experience in managing a vertically integrated operation from farming, processing, and exporting to more than 60 countries globally. Our audience would love to know more about these from you.

Harold Koh: I am hopeful that my wealth of experience over the last 21 years on managing business, from a country CEO to a global CEO, will help me drive a successful startup.

Three areas of my experiences have been helpful:

  • Understand and have the ability to go global which not many startups or larger companies have this background
  • Understand about agriculture and have an extensive agricultural network in Southeast Asia which makes it easier for us to source in scalable volume
  • Understand the diverse business cultures in Southeast Asian countries is a plus

There are three areas that I see importance for success:

  • Strongly believe to balance between vision and operations.  We need to inspire but must be able to execute.
  • Vision must be supported by strong finance acumen
  • Needs to have a capable and motivated team, must be capable of multi-tasking continuously. The latter is difficult which I am still learning to ensure that my team does not burn out.

Grevivals: How is NEXTEVO transforming agricultural waste into natural, environmentally-friendly materials and products for use in value-added applications?

Harold Koh: We currently have a production facility in Thailand, and this is a joint venture with Ms Jinny Tantipipatpong, who is also the chairperson of SAICO. SAICO is one of the world’s largest pineapple cannery producers. While SAICO sources pineapple fruits from farmers, NEXTEVO Thailand collects pineapple leaves from farmers. This is followed by transporting the leaves to the fiber processing location, which is in the same location as the cannery.

Pineapple leaf fibers (PALF) are extracted from the leaves, which is also called the decortication. They then undergo a series of washing and drying processes, in particular natural sun-drying is preferred instead of using diesel-powered drying. Subsequently, the dried PALF undergoes degumming, which is a series of washing to remove excess organic materials. The silky-white fine and clean degummed PALF are then sized into short staple fibres, also known as Ready-to-Spin (RTS) PALF. RTS PALF is blended with a plethora of eco-fibers through a yarn-spinning process to produce PALF-blended yarns. These eco-fibers include natural fibers (e.g., linen and jute), organic fibers (e.g., organic cotton), regenerated fibers (e.g., lyocell), and recycled fibers (recycled polyester).

NEXTEVO has plans to expand into processing coconut husk waste into value-added products in Q2 2022, and this would be another value-chain, non-textile related.

Grevivals: How is your organization making a significant impact against climate change around the globe?

Harold Koh: In relation to the ongoing climate change conference (COP26) and its four main goals, NEXTEVO sees the importance in them and they are highly pertinent or could be described as the foundation of its overarching business.

Pineapple leaves and coconut husks are examples of by-products of their respective harvesting processes, and they are commonly being burnt, discarded into landfills or nearby water bodies, and composted. This results in the release of toxic greenhouse gases and eventually contributes to climate change. NEXTEVO’s business creates value-added materials and products from using the above agricultural waste raw materials which prevents/reduces environmental pollution, and they require no extra land, water and other resources to cultivate them. All of its efforts go beyond curtailing deforestation since no additional spaces are needed to cultivate its raw materials, and contribute to net-zero emissions. This in turn protects the natural ecosystem and habitats.

In Q2 2022, NEXTEVO will be launching its cocopeat products, transformed from coconut husk waste. Cocopeat is a sustainable alternative to peat moss, which is a vital ingredient for plant growth in horticultural and greenhouse settings. Peatlands in fact trap twice as much carbon as forests despite only covering just 3% of the earth’s surface. Yet, they have been extensively drained, dug for fuel and used for horticultural/agricultural purposes, and these activities have heavily degraded the natural peatland habitats. Using cocopeat will help to restore the peatland habitats, to trap more carbon and to strengthen food security in the future.

Grevivals: NEXTEVO is currently in partnership with world-renowned R&D institutions in Europe and Singapore. Can you please talk a little bit about it?

Harold Koh: At NEXTEVO, we envision a greener future in which toxic, waste-generating substances are reduced to a minimum, or eliminated altogether, from our daily lives and the industries. The company is working with world-renowned R&D institutions in Europe and Singapore that house industrial experts of various fields. We are not able to reveal much information now, but these works are in line with NEXTEVO’s goal towards zero waste and the circular economy. We are constantly seeking for new product applications and driving process improvement and productivity.

Grevivals: Among your product applications and product development plans (such as Sustainable Textiles, Soil Amendments, Cushions & Bedding Mattresses and New Product Innovation) – which one is your favorite? And why?

Harold Koh: It is difficult to choose a favorite currently as we are very excited to transform agriculture wastes to different sustainable product applications.  All these product innovations hold great importance to my team and I, as well as our sincere contributions to relieving environmental pollution and driving social impact for farmers.

As for pineapple leaf fibers (PALF), our sustainable PALF textiles have just been launched earlier this November. This marked the start of NEXTEVO’s production, which is a huge milestone for NEXTEVO. The team has put in a lot of effort in making this happen; the PALF production in Thailand is the result of a year-long journey from product development, proof-of-concept, trial to production. Trial production started in late September 2021 and the PALF production volume will scale-up by first quarter 2022.

While the primary focus is on PALF products now, we are planning to expand into processing coconut husk waste into sustainable materials by Q2 2022. This will be managed by the coconut husk team which exclusively focus on extracting cocopeat and coir fiber.

Grevivals: What are you most proud of or excited about NEXTEVO? What do you want the world to know about you and NEXTEVO?

Harold Koh: We are excited for the world to know about our sustainability story, as well as how agricultural waste can be transformed into value-added products for everyday living or for agricultural applications. We like to associate NEXTEVO with environmental and social sustainability.

Pineapples are traditional symbols of regal statuses and today, they are popular ornamental pieces and contemporary designs. I am excited for our pineapple leaf fibers to become a household name, alongside other conventional fibers like cotton and linen. I am looking forward to walking into stores and seeing our PALF incorporated into end products such as denim jeans, sneakers, bath towels, etc.

Grevivals: As a founder and CEO, could you please briefly explain your overall strategy for your organization?

Harold Koh: Our immediate strategy for pineapple leaf fibers (PALF) is to get into major global brands and several local brands in Asia. In order to achieve this, we have to increase our production volume. We are expecting to ramp up our volume in Q1 2022 and we are hoping that our supply chain will not be affected by Covid-19.

As for coconut husk waste processing, we will start our production at acceptable volume.  More info will be available soon in the next few months.

Grevivals: Being a part of an environmentally conscious community, what kind of suggestions would you suggest for the new/upcoming “Green ” startups/SME’s?

Harold Koh: As a startup, we are still new to the environmentally conscious space so I would probably not provide any suggestions for newcomers. However, I think the key thing to take note of is to constantly study the latest global news, trends and existing measurements on sustainability. Sustainability is more than environmental protection, there are other aspects to it.

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Interview With Harold Koh

02 Nov 2021
Gaia Discovery
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Media Features

 

“At Nextevo, We Envision A Greener Future In Which Toxic, Waste-Generating Substances Are Reduced To A Minimum, Or Eliminated Altogether, From Our Daily Lives And The Industries”-Harold Koh

Interview With Harold Koh

Grevivals: Hi Harold, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us. Can you give our readers an introduction to your organization? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?

Harold Koh: Southeast Asia is one of the world’s largest agricultural hubs, where the countries combined are top producers for pineapples, coconuts, rice, sugar cane, palm oil, cassava, etc. It is unimaginable of the scale of agricultural waste generated in this region. Agricultural waste is commonly burnt, discarded into landfills and/or composted, resulting in the release of harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. NEXTEVO was founded to tackle environmental pollution and to drive positive social impact to farmers that work with us, while generating a meaningful profitable business. Our mission is to transform agricultural waste into sustainable value-added materials/products for everyday living and agricultural applications. Early November, we launched our sustainable textile fibers and yarns made from pineapple leaf waste, and they are suitable for the global textile industry.

What sets up apart from our competitors is our ability to achieve sustainability, scalability and functionality in our products. As NEXTEVO is focused on tackling environmental pollution and driving positive social impact, we are also making sure that our goals are aligned to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs). Out of 17 of them, we are currently looking at five of them in further detail, such as SDG 8 (Decent work and economic growth), 9 (Industry, innovation and infrastructure), 12 (Responsible consumption and production), 13 (Climate action) and 17 (Global partnerships).

NEXTEVO has plans to improve our production processes, from farm to fiber manufacturing. We are currently working on our life cycle assessment (LCA), together with a third-party accredited organization. This will help us to evaluate, design and further reduce environmental impacts across our supply chain.

Next, scalability is our key competitive advantage. As mentioned above, there is so much potential in sourcing agricultural waste raw materials in Southeast Asia. We are situated in the region with top producing pineapple countries, which includes Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, and the total amount of pineapples produced in these three countries adds up to 6.6 million metric tons. This FAO data shows that the three countries contribute around 90% of the total production in Southeast Asia and also 30% more than that of the entire production in Central America, the second largest pineapple producing region. Through my extensive network built up in the agricultural industry over the past decade, we are currently sourcing our pineapple leaf raw materials in both Thailand and Indonesia, and we have plans to source from other parts of Southeast Asia. We hope to impact more small-holder farmers as we continue to expand our sourcing.

Last, we are also making sure that while our products are creating an impactful sustainability story, the products must also have suitable and high functionality for different textile applications. For our pineapple leaf fiber (PALF) blended yarns, we currently blend with other eco-fibers such as lyocell and recycled polyester fibers. The main idea here is to combine the advantages of our PALF and other eco-fiber properties to achieve higher functional performance. Our PALF-recycled polyester blended yarn has undergone testing already and they have passed standard tests for footwear applications. This particular product has also shown interest by our upholstery customers due to its high durability.

Grevivals: You have 21 years of senior leadership experience as the President/CEO in three diverse industries within the Asia-Pacific region, namely in agriculture, load handling equipment, and automobiles. Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?

Harold Koh:

Interestingly, it never crossed my mind that I would end up in these three different industries throughout my entire career of 31 years which were:

  • 20 years in Automobile and the last nine years as CEOs of three different countries;
  • 2+ years as Hiab Asia Pacific President (in charge of nine country CEOs and overseeing several Asian exclusive distributors); and
  • 9 years as CEO of agriculture/FMCG overseeing over 60 markets globally.

Now, agricultural waste sustainability (NEXTEVO) will be my fourth industry, which is closely related to agriculture.

At Hiab Asia Pacific

When I was offered the President position of Hiab Asia Pacific, I thought this was a great opportunity. I was excited seeing a leap in career advancement, from managing a single country (General Motors Philippines Q4 1998 – mid-2002; General Motors Indonesia mid-2002 – mid-2005; and General Motors Singapore & regional exports mid-2005 – mid-2007) to managing the whole Asia Pacific region. This consisted of overseeing and expanding businesses across two continents.

I had decided to take up the challenge in the load handling equipment industry even though I knew it would be a different ball game as compared to the automobile industry. When I joined, I realized that it is not only was the nature of business is different, but its business culture, sales and production processes were entirely different from what I knew. The most challenging area was to convince my senior direct reports (most of them were country CEOs) my leadership as many viewed how a guy with no prior related experience in this field able to lead. I eventually overcame this and many of us ended up as good buddies up till today.

There were many challenges along the way but all could be solved except for one, which was leadership. This had to be proven before earning the respect of my team. I had learnt a lot throughout this journey, especially on how to lead the business growth for Asia Pacific.

At Great Giant Pineapple (GGP)

20 months later, I received an offer from an Indonesian conglomerate to be the President Director and CEO of Great Giant Pineapple, an agricultural and FMCG business. This is a vertically integrated pineapple company which manages its own farm to processing, and to exporting its produce. It took me five months to decide as I had no idea on leading an agriculture company. However, I was excited that the company was not only the world’s third largest pineapple producer with 12,000 employees, but also had potential to expand its global export further. I had then decided to take up the challenge and spent nine years in that role from Nov 2009 to Dec 2018. When I left the company, it achieved the second largest producer in the world in term of tonnage.

This was where I was deeply influenced by the importance of sustainability and the company had implemented many programs during my time. To name a few:

  • Zero Waste Practice by maximizing the usage of the entire pineapple plant. Besides harvesting the pineapple fruits, we also used the stems to extract bromelain enzymes and sold pineapple skin for animal feed. Leaves were used as compost.
  • Built a biogas plant to reduce the usage of coal generated power.
  • Grew a large-scale bamboo fence around riverbanks and reservoirs to prevent soil erosion and to help fight against global warming. Bamboo produces 35% more oxygen than trees. It can also absorb around 12 tonnes of carbon dioxide per hectare annually.
  • Reduced usage of deep wells (ground water) and improved capturing more surface water for reservoirs.
  • Enhanced the quality of life of farmers (employees) and community with clean water supply, healthcare and education scholarships.

Six months before I left GGP, I started to plan and wanted to start a business that would be closely related to sustainability that benefits the environment and farmers. I looked at several options including biomass. And after I left, I came across the idea of transforming agricultural waste to value-added products. Within a month of research and deep thinking, I decided to establish a startup for this new venture, called NEXTEVO.

In retrospect, my career timeline was driven purely by opportunities to do interesting and exciting things.

Grevivals: So let’s switch gears a bit and talk about “NEXTEVO”. What is the core philosophy of your organization?

Harold Koh: The core philosophy of our organization stems from three areas – People, Planet and Profit.

People: Through the collection of agricultural waste such as pineapple leaves and coconut husks, small-holder farmers working with us will be supplemented with extra income. In three years time, NEXTEVO aims to impact more than 5,000 pineapple and coconut farmers in Southeast Asia.

Planet: As one of the largest agricultural hubs in the world, significant volumes of agricultural waste are produced and they are commonly burnt or discarded into landfills and water bodies. This releases greenhouse gases and contributes to climate change in the long run. Through NEXTEVO’s business, collection of agricultural waste will help to reduce existing environmental problems and conserve the natural ecosystem.

Profit: Profit is a key driver at NEXTEVO, and we want to demonstrate that business and sustainability can go hand-in-hand.

Grevivals: You have brought to NEXTEVO a wealth of experience in managing a vertically integrated operation from farming, processing, and exporting to more than 60 countries globally. Our audience would love to know more about these from you.

Harold Koh: I am hopeful that my wealth of experience over the last 21 years on managing business, from a country CEO to a global CEO, will help me drive a successful startup.

Three areas of my experiences have been helpful:

  • Understand and have the ability to go global which not many startups or larger companies have this background
  • Understand about agriculture and have an extensive agricultural network in Southeast Asia which makes it easier for us to source in scalable volume
  • Understand the diverse business cultures in Southeast Asian countries is a plus

There are three areas that I see importance for success:

  • Strongly believe to balance between vision and operations.  We need to inspire but must be able to execute.
  • Vision must be supported by strong finance acumen
  • Needs to have a capable and motivated team, must be capable of multi-tasking continuously. The latter is difficult which I am still learning to ensure that my team does not burn out.

Grevivals: How is NEXTEVO transforming agricultural waste into natural, environmentally-friendly materials and products for use in value-added applications?

Harold Koh: We currently have a production facility in Thailand, and this is a joint venture with Ms Jinny Tantipipatpong, who is also the chairperson of SAICO. SAICO is one of the world’s largest pineapple cannery producers. While SAICO sources pineapple fruits from farmers, NEXTEVO Thailand collects pineapple leaves from farmers. This is followed by transporting the leaves to the fiber processing location, which is in the same location as the cannery.

Pineapple leaf fibers (PALF) are extracted from the leaves, which is also called the decortication. They then undergo a series of washing and drying processes, in particular natural sun-drying is preferred instead of using diesel-powered drying. Subsequently, the dried PALF undergoes degumming, which is a series of washing to remove excess organic materials. The silky-white fine and clean degummed PALF are then sized into short staple fibres, also known as Ready-to-Spin (RTS) PALF. RTS PALF is blended with a plethora of eco-fibers through a yarn-spinning process to produce PALF-blended yarns. These eco-fibers include natural fibers (e.g., linen and jute), organic fibers (e.g., organic cotton), regenerated fibers (e.g., lyocell), and recycled fibers (recycled polyester).

NEXTEVO has plans to expand into processing coconut husk waste into value-added products in Q2 2022, and this would be another value-chain, non-textile related.

Grevivals: How is your organization making a significant impact against climate change around the globe?

Harold Koh: In relation to the ongoing climate change conference (COP26) and its four main goals, NEXTEVO sees the importance in them and they are highly pertinent or could be described as the foundation of its overarching business.

Pineapple leaves and coconut husks are examples of by-products of their respective harvesting processes, and they are commonly being burnt, discarded into landfills or nearby water bodies, and composted. This results in the release of toxic greenhouse gases and eventually contributes to climate change. NEXTEVO’s business creates value-added materials and products from using the above agricultural waste raw materials which prevents/reduces environmental pollution, and they require no extra land, water and other resources to cultivate them. All of its efforts go beyond curtailing deforestation since no additional spaces are needed to cultivate its raw materials, and contribute to net-zero emissions. This in turn protects the natural ecosystem and habitats.

In Q2 2022, NEXTEVO will be launching its cocopeat products, transformed from coconut husk waste. Cocopeat is a sustainable alternative to peat moss, which is a vital ingredient for plant growth in horticultural and greenhouse settings. Peatlands in fact trap twice as much carbon as forests despite only covering just 3% of the earth’s surface. Yet, they have been extensively drained, dug for fuel and used for horticultural/agricultural purposes, and these activities have heavily degraded the natural peatland habitats. Using cocopeat will help to restore the peatland habitats, to trap more carbon and to strengthen food security in the future.

Grevivals: NEXTEVO is currently in partnership with world-renowned R&D institutions in Europe and Singapore. Can you please talk a little bit about it?

Harold Koh: At NEXTEVO, we envision a greener future in which toxic, waste-generating substances are reduced to a minimum, or eliminated altogether, from our daily lives and the industries. The company is working with world-renowned R&D institutions in Europe and Singapore that house industrial experts of various fields. We are not able to reveal much information now, but these works are in line with NEXTEVO’s goal towards zero waste and the circular economy. We are constantly seeking for new product applications and driving process improvement and productivity.

Grevivals: Among your product applications and product development plans (such as Sustainable Textiles, Soil Amendments, Cushions & Bedding Mattresses and New Product Innovation) – which one is your favorite? And why?

Harold Koh: It is difficult to choose a favorite currently as we are very excited to transform agriculture wastes to different sustainable product applications.  All these product innovations hold great importance to my team and I, as well as our sincere contributions to relieving environmental pollution and driving social impact for farmers.

As for pineapple leaf fibers (PALF), our sustainable PALF textiles have just been launched earlier this November. This marked the start of NEXTEVO’s production, which is a huge milestone for NEXTEVO. The team has put in a lot of effort in making this happen; the PALF production in Thailand is the result of a year-long journey from product development, proof-of-concept, trial to production. Trial production started in late September 2021 and the PALF production volume will scale-up by first quarter 2022.

While the primary focus is on PALF products now, we are planning to expand into processing coconut husk waste into sustainable materials by Q2 2022. This will be managed by the coconut husk team which exclusively focus on extracting cocopeat and coir fiber.

Grevivals: What are you most proud of or excited about NEXTEVO? What do you want the world to know about you and NEXTEVO?

Harold Koh: We are excited for the world to know about our sustainability story, as well as how agricultural waste can be transformed into value-added products for everyday living or for agricultural applications. We like to associate NEXTEVO with environmental and social sustainability.

Pineapples are traditional symbols of regal statuses and today, they are popular ornamental pieces and contemporary designs. I am excited for our pineapple leaf fibers to become a household name, alongside other conventional fibers like cotton and linen. I am looking forward to walking into stores and seeing our PALF incorporated into end products such as denim jeans, sneakers, bath towels, etc.

Grevivals: As a founder and CEO, could you please briefly explain your overall strategy for your organization?

Harold Koh: Our immediate strategy for pineapple leaf fibers (PALF) is to get into major global brands and several local brands in Asia. In order to achieve this, we have to increase our production volume. We are expecting to ramp up our volume in Q1 2022 and we are hoping that our supply chain will not be affected by Covid-19.

As for coconut husk waste processing, we will start our production at acceptable volume.  More info will be available soon in the next few months.

Grevivals: Being a part of an environmentally conscious community, what kind of suggestions would you suggest for the new/upcoming “Green ” startups/SME’s?

Harold Koh: As a startup, we are still new to the environmentally conscious space so I would probably not provide any suggestions for newcomers. However, I think the key thing to take note of is to constantly study the latest global news, trends and existing measurements on sustainability. Sustainability is more than environmental protection, there are other aspects to it.

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