(estimated reading time: 5 minutes)
Our last newsletter provided a holistic overview of food waste and the mismatch between funding and investment opportunities. Below are some of the highlights:
- US spending on transporting, processing, and disposing of food waste: $200 billion
- 20%: the amount of freshwater, cropland, and landfill volume consumed by food waste
- The global food and vegetable market: worth $200 billion by 2020
- Venture capital funding in food waste in 2016: $140 million (4% of 2016 AgTech raises)
When considering how to repurpose or handle food waste, many likely only consider upcycling it into another form of food or as a fertilizer. And while those are certainly viable applications that we will discuss further in this newsletter, many entrepreneurs are taking food waste and solving problems in industries entirely distinct from agriculture.
Would you believe us if we said that coffee could be used to power one-third of London busses used for public transportation?
Or if simple fruits, vegetables, and other composted organic waste could be re-engineered into fully biodegradable plastic?
These are active projects currently undertaken by accomplished entrepreneurs who have noticed the same mismatch we have in the volume of food waste and the level of startup activity looking to solve a pertinent and expensive global problem.
Bio-bean (London, UK)
Bio-bean is one of the most exciting and established companies operating in upcycled food waste. Founded less than six years ago, bio-bean takes spent coffee grounds and repurposes them into three products: coffee logs, coffee pellets, and biodiesel. Two billion cups of coffee are consumed daily. The United Kingdom alone produces 500,000 tonnes of waste coffee grounds, typically destined for landfills, where they cause nearly three million tonnes of carbon emissions and cost the country $110 million.
Coffee logs and coffee pellets are high-caloric fuel alternatives. With a 20% higher caloric value than wood, bio-bean’s products can burn for longer and with a greater intensity. The logs are bio-bean’s product for individual consumers and can be used in chimneys or stoves. Pellets are intended for industrial use and can be burned in company boilers.
Of most interest and excitement, however, is bio-bean’s recent development of combining coffee oil from the spent grounds and diesel into an eco-friendly biodiesel. Bio-bean has worked alongside multinational oil producer Shell throughout this project, with the intent on powering London’s public transportation system. While not commercially ready at this stage, bio-bean anticipates it to be available for consumers in the future.
Full Cycle Bioplastics (California, USA)
Plastic has been an environmental nightmare for decades. Not only does it require petroleum as an input, it is difficult to recycle and not biodegradable, making it easy to harm animals or ecosystems on land and especially in the ocean. Bioplastics and biodegradable packaging are exciting industries that have experienced torrid growth as consumer attitudes shift – global bioplastics are expected to grow at a 21% CAGR from 2017-2022 and biodegradable packages at a 15% CAGR through 2025.
Full Cycle uses a proprietary bio-refining process to manufacture polyhydroxyalkanoate, more commonly referred to as PHA. PHA is fully biodegradable on land or in the ocean, making it a safe alternative to currently available products.
FCB offers a solution for waste diversion by initiating closed-loop systems within business operations, allowing companies with large waste streams to produce PHA, generate additional revenue streams and mitigate disposal costs, thereby adding value from waste.
Misfit Juicery (Washington DC, USA)
Misfit Juicery handles food waste in a more traditional sense – the company takes unwanted or unharvested produce from farmers and manufactures cold-pressed juices. Almost one-third of all produce grown each year is either thrown away or left in the ground as a result of cosmetic defects. The nutrient profile is, of course, still the same – the fruits and vegetables are simply unused due to strict aesthetic requirements.
Misfit Juicery produces seven different juices that are available in over 100 stores along the East Coast (but primarily in Washington, DC and New York City). Misfit recently announced a partnership with Baldor, the largest produce distributor in the northeastern United States. While Misfit is a leader in the space, there is a growing contingent of companies focused on repurposing produce, either as a juice as Misfit does or as a cheaper alternative to traditional produce in order to expand access to healthy food for underserved communities.
Misfit is looking to expand into food offerings and recently launched a juice keg as its newest product. Since so many of the companies in this space are less than three years old, there will be significant room for them to continue to grow as operations and brand recognition expand across the United States.
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