For nearly 70 years, the global floral industry has used oil-based foam bricks to hold flower arrangements in place. A Twin Cities company is commercializing material developed at the University of Minnesota to bring to market a new, compostable, nontoxic foam brick that could receive significant demand when available next year.

BKB Floral Foam, a business registered in St. Paul, was awarded $25,000 for winning the energy, clean tech, and water division of the competition. The company also received the $10,000 Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's Green and Sustainable Chemistry Prize, which goes to a business with the best green and sustainable chemistry-based outcomes.

BKB company leaders Dundee and Ian Butcher said the prize money will be used on staffing, equipment, and producing its foam brick, called Plae Foam. The foam brick, which is made from corn and can hold water for up to seven days, would be sold to distributors and floral companies that would sell it wholesale.

Over the next several years, the company aims to raise at least $4 million to build a production facility in Minnesota and potentially in Europe. The company currently has a research and development office in Bloomington with a full-time staff distributed throughout Minneapolis. Since its founding in 2014, BKB has raised $500,000 from investors, valuing the company at $3.5 million, said Ian Butcher, the company's chairman. "I think the floral industry is on the cusp of trying to become sustainable, and this is a huge part of that," she said. "There's been a lot of attempts at it, but no one has been able to do it, and there's no alternative. We're so pleased to provide that."

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