Rhode Island-based company Earthly named finalist for New England Cannabis Convention’s ‘Pitch Slam’

Frank Mastrobuono
General Manager, Earthly


PROVIDENCE -- Earthly, a Rhode Island-based company dedicated to repurposing food waste, recently was named one of three finalists in the New England Cannabis Convention's "Pitch Slam." Over 70 companies applied for the Shark Tank-style competition, which will be held on Saturday, April 22 at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston.

“We’re beyond excited,” co-founder Frank Mastrobuono said. “It is really validation of two years of hard work for us because it demonstrates how our concept really resonates in society.”

Mastrobuono, a Saunderstown native and University of Rhode Island graduate, and his co-founders Mike Kowalczyk, a fellow URI grad, of Newport and Animesh Mishra, a native of Mumbai, India, began Earthly in September 2015. The concept originated when Mastrobuono and Mishra were attending a business school in Boston, and after graduation it evolved when Kowalczyk – who worked with Mastrobuono as a pedicab driver in Newport – came aboard.

From the start, Earthly firmly believed in the power of business to enact real social change.

“We believe that a business that takes care of the community around it is going to in turn be a much healthier business,” Mastrobuono said. “We have a set of values that dictate everything that we do: Community, environment, education, compassion and expression.

“If we have an opportunity to make money that runs contradictory to those values, we won’t do it.”

Today, Earthly collects and processes food waste in urban environments faster and more efficiently than traditional composting operations by feeding it to a specific species of worms. The worms then process the organic material and their manure is referred to as "worm castings," an all-natural and eco-friendly product that can help grow a wide variety of crops.

“Even where food waste is lucky enough to be composted, it’s often trucked 30 or 40 miles outside of a city to costly operations that require lots of land, equipment and skilled labor,” Mastrobuono said. “We went searching for a better solution and discovered vermicomposting, which uses worms to accelerate and enhance the composting process without the heavy machinery or any foul odor.”

Thus far, the cannabis industry has been the group that has shown the most interest in Earthly’s products.

"In our experience, there isn't a single group of consumers that have had the same economic incentive to find effective alternatives to chemical-based nutrients as cannabis growers," Kowalczyk said. "Because cannabis is the highest value cash crop in the country, businesses that are conscious of general market trends stand to benefit considerably by tapping into the same consumer values that are currently driving growth in such sectors as natural foods.

"Our customers are the same people you see in the organic food sections at your local supermarket, except as opposed to food, in many cases they’re concerned about what's going into the cannabis they consume, whether it's being utilized medicinally or even recreationally in neighboring states like Massachusetts."

Although cannabis consumers currently comprise the majority of Earthly's regular customers, the company stresses the wide array of potential applications for its products.

"Cannabis growers are just the early adopters of these techniques," Mastrobuono said. "As an environmental scientist, I firmly believe the techniques cannabis growers are developing in this industry will be used to grow many of our fruits and vegetables in 10 years. Many of our customers already tell us they love being able to say their food was grown from food waste."

Mastrobuono also emphasized that he is thrilled to tell the company’s story in hopes of inspiring others.

"We believe the only limit to solving our society’s problems is our own willingness to be creative,” Mastrobuono said, “and therefore there are plenty of opportunities out there for other businesses like us.”

In addition to the “Pitch Slam,” Mastrobuono will also appear as part of a panel on leadership and social responsibility in the cannabis industry on Sunday, April 23. Earthly will be in booth 622 on the trade show floor throughout the two-day convention, as well.