As states and municipalities continue to enact food waste bans, there’s increasing pressure to develop new ways to repurpose food.
One company that’s developed a new approach is WISEerg, based in Redmond, Wash., and born from tech-geek backgrounds. The company’s refrigerator-sized product, called the Harvester, not only converts food waste into organic fertilizer, it uses smart technology to track what’s being thrown out to help the grocers manage waste and create alternative donation or re-use solutions.
Company founders Larry LeSueur and Jose Lugo, former Microsoft software engineers, set out five years ago to create a data-collecting tool to try to keep grocers from throwing out so much food, says Brian Valentine, a board member and primary investor. Once they had that data in hand, they had to figure out what to do with the learnings.
The result is the Harvester, which uses a non-chemical, oxidative conversion technology to grind up food and convert it into a liquid. The firm then collects this from each store, processes it at another vat-filled plant and distributes the high-end fertilizer that is generated. The company has raised about $15 million in funding and today has test units in chains such as Whole Foods and PCC Natural Markets, says Valentine.