Food waste is a huge issue these days, not just in the home, but also in the food service and grocery industries, with an estimated 40% or more of the food in the U.S. ending up as waste each year – totaling millions of tons of organic matter. And with food production consuming as much as 80% of our freshwater, 50% of our land, and 10% of our energy, that food waste ends up also being water and energy waste as well.
There are a variety of tactics for reducing waste all along the food supply chain, but even with the most stringent waste reduction strategies in place, one area where waste can be difficult to control is in the retail and food service industries, both in the pre- and post-consumer phases of food preparation and production.
However, one startup, founded by two former Microsoft employees, has a solution to dealing with the vast amounts of unusable food generated in food prep and sales, not necessarily by reducing the amount of waste, but by turning those wasted food scraps into a valuable resource.
WISErg’s Harvester technology, developed by Larry LeSueur and Jose Lugo, can allow restaurants and groceries to dispose of food scraps without any mess or odor, and to harvest the nutrients and convert them into fertilizer that can be used to feed the soil and boost plant growth.
The Harvester, also called a Zero Waste Nutrient Recovery System, consists of a machine that grinds the food scraps and uses a proprietary microbial process to turn it into a nutrient-rich liquid, which is then further refined off-site into an agricultural fertilizer. The device can be installed either inside or outside, and can handle up to 4,000 pounds of food waste per day.
In addition to enabling cleaner and less wasteful food scrap disposal, the Harvester also features smart technology that weighs the scraps and allows them to be attributed to different departments, and then generates analytics reports (by department, by day or week or month), which can help businesses to get a clearer view of their product shrinkage and manage their inventory better. By using the Harvester, businesses can also reduce their reliance on landfills and the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from their operations, while also helping to close the loop in our food system by returning unused nutrients from wasted food to the soil.