WISErg, a bio-tech company that recycles discarded food into organic fertilizer while harvesting data from the scraps, announced today that it has raised a Series B round of $5 million from private investors.
This brings the total WISErg has raised to $7.75 million and will allow the Redmond, Wash.-based company to expand into California. WISErg makes food recycling units called Harvester which are currently used by stores in the Puget Sound area of Washington, including branches of Whole Foods Market, Town & Country Markets, PCC Natural Markets, and Red Apple Markets.
The Harvester processes scraps from meat, seafood, deli, and produce department, and turns them into organic fertilizers that is then sold to commercial farmers and retail customers. The Harvester also collects information about the food scraps so businesses can better manage their inventory.
CEO Larry LeSueur told me in an email that the majority — or 80 percent — of food scraps end up in landfills.
“Until the Harvester, grocers who wanted to do something more sustainable with food scraps often turned to composters. But that approach has inherent problems. We believe the Harvester is best suited to reduce the amount of discarded or wasted food destined for landfills and to capture reusable nutrients from it.
Unlike traditional composters that simply concentrate on decomposing material, the Harvester uses a patent-pending oxidative conversion process, extracting valuable nutrients from food scraps before they become waste,” LeSueur says.
The Harvester measure 4′ x 7′ and is made from steel. Workers dump food scraps into the unit and then enter a code to identify what department they came from. Then the food scraps are liquefied and pumped into a holding tank, where they are treated with enzymes and other organic materials, LeSueur explains. Then the liquified scraps are transported to WISErg’s facility to be processed into fertilizer.
“There are several other important differences between the Harvester and traditional composting. While we see benefits to composting, we believe it is best suited for yard waste. Composters aren’t sealed or technology enabled. Therefore, decomposing food scraps can get messy and smelly. But more importantly, they provide no usable information for grocers to identify the root cause of waste,” says LaSueur.
The Harvester collects data entered by workers as well as the food scraps themselves to tell grocers where they can improve their inventory management. For example, it can report if a store is stocking too much inventory or discarding undamaged produce before its necessary. This in turn can help grocery stores reduce food waste and improve their profit margins.
The company says that in addition to its expansion in California (where 10% of all grocery stores in the U.S. are), which will take place later this year, it will also invest its new capital to develop the Harvester’s technology and WISErg’s marketing operations.