Bioenergy startup Tree Free Heat of Waterville has signed its first distribution deal with Back40, a Portland-based startup that operates an e-commerce site for outdoor gear rentals that can be delivered directly to campsites.

Founded to make outdoor adventures more comfortable, convenient and accessible, Back40 said its mission has become more urgent because of the social distancing requirements in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Tree Free Heat of Waterville produces fire starters made of hemp waste. Photo courtesy of Tree Free Heat

The company said in a news release that hiking and camping gear rentals make it easier and less expensive to enjoy Maine’s outdoors, and that the new partnership gives consumers easy access to Tree Free Heat’s initial product offering: hemp stalk-based fire starters for campfires and cooking grills.

“This summer, outdoor adventures will be more popular than ever, and gear ownership shouldn’t be a barrier to enjoying Maine in a safe, healthy way,” said Henry Gilbert, founder of Back40, in the release. “We are excited to supplement our gear rental options with TreeFreeHeat’s fire starters – it’s a great product that makes camping easier, and partnering with another Maine business is a no-brainer for us.”

The deal marks a major milestone for both startups, which said they are deeply interconnected within Maine’s entrepreneurial community. Both startups have been contestants in the Greenlight Maine pitch competition – Back40 in the flagship competition, and Tree Free Heat in the Collegiate Challenge.

For Tree Free Heat, Back40 provides promotion and distribution to its target market, including campers, campgrounds and employee wellness programs. For Back40, the fire starters made of renewable hemp stalk waste reflect the brand’s commitment to environmental sustainability and innovation while fulfilling consumer demand.

“Partnerships have been essential to Tree Free Heat’s growth, and Henry’s commitment to making adventuring easy makes Back40 an ideal partner,” said Tree Free Heat founder Dylan Veilleux in the release. “As soon as I learned about what he was building, I knew he’d be a perfect match.”

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