Justin Kamine: More Than Food Waste

For Justin Kamine, co-founder and partner of KDC Agribusiness (Ag), he can look to his father for inspiration. Harold (Hal) Kamine is a serial entrepreneur, and Justin grew up with the mindset of continually trying to find new ideas and opportunities in which he could get involved.

“My family and I take the approach for most of our investments that we get intimately involved with the CEO and their team,” Justin said. “We usually are working day-to-day with most of the CEOs, meanwhile building our own operating company. So, when I transitioned from an investor to an entrepreneur myself, I was already working the 14-hour days and answering and doing the late-night calls.”

Justin began helping his father’s company, KDC Solar, to develop, permit, and build solar projects around New Jersey. It was during that time when he started to branch out and build his own personal brand. As a result, he made a few investments himself and joined boards of sustainably focused food or agriculture ventures.

He was the first investor and advisor to a company that introduced the world’s first 100% biodegradable and edible cup, which appeared on the TV show Shark Tank. To prepare for the show, he spent long nights rehearsing and “acting” as each of the sharks to help the two women presenting on behalf of the company.

“It worked, and I am happy to say that we got an even better deal than expected with Mark Cuban. Mark and his team have been an amazing partner, and he and his team are intimately involved with the growth of the company,” Justin said.

Aside from receiving guidance from Hal and Mark, Justin has also worked with Howard G. Buffet (American business magnate, investor, and Warren Buffet’s grandson) and Alex Urquhart (former CEO of GE Energy Financial Services). On his experiences working with the latter men, he said: “I think the best and most amazing trait of both of them which I try to emulate every day is how they treat people and stay humble and are appreciative of everyone.”

An Idea from Seed to Sprout

Justin studied environmental business and public policy in college. Already familiar with the TED brand, he searched online for TED Talk videos to answer a question that he posed to his professor after a microeconomics class. What he found would further set him on the path to his career’s work in sustainability.

When Justin watched Eben Bayer’s TEDGlobal 2010 talk, he was introduced to the concept of biomimicry and how it could be applied. In short, biomimicry is the imitation of often biological systems, models, or natural elements to innovate and solve complex problems.

“This sparked my soon-to-be obsession with biomimicry and later the creation of KDC Ag,” he said.

“I have always been fascinated with sustainability and trying to progress the world towards becoming more regenerative and environmentally sensitive,” said Justin, who will give a talk at TEDxAsburyPark Saturday, May 20 at the Paramount Theatre. “I am a big believer that when looking around the world, you see most if not all industries are currently unsustainable with their consumption of resources. I have become obsessed with the notion that it is not a matter of should we as a society be changing, but that we need to be changing and my sole focus is to make that occur in a sustainable and more regenerative way quickly!”

“I think what is amazing is that when we are successful in executing what we are trying to do, it will truly change the agriculture world and make it much more progressive, regenerative, and environmentally friendly. What gives me goosebumps is that this is a universal problem: food waste and sustainable agriculture, and if we can solve it, we have affected the lives of millions of existing humans and future generations to come,” he said.

He emphasized that currently 40% of the food we grow in the U.S. is thrown out, and 90% of that waste goes directly into landfills and contributes to the creation of greenhouse gasses. Meanwhile, soils are losing micronutrients, and more chemicals and destruction of the environment will occur within the agriculture world.

The Reasonable and Unreasonable Man

Justin’s favorite quote is by Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

It has become a mantra for him, one which he reads daily, and it continues to help shape his actions.

“I was born with a severe hearing and speech impediment. I went to school for it from two years old until eighth grade, and oftentimes my peers or parents could not understand the things I was trying to say. For me, this determination to be heard and to be heard correctly was a pivotal experience in my life, teaching me about perseverance and to not always care about what everyone else is thinking. I live a fairly free flowing life, and being true to myself and pursuing my own goals and dreams is a key component of that,” Justin said.

“If you had told my parents back then that I would be on a TEDx stage speaking, I think they would have laughed,” he said.

No one is laughing now.

Hear Justin and 26 other speakers at TEDxAsburyPark IDENTITY. Get your tickets today.