Seattle-based startup WISErg puts its founders’ software development backgrounds to innovative use, addressing the massive issue of food waste with the production of the Harvester. A commercial-grade, onsite composter for food retailers and restaurant use, the Harvester uses smart technology to monitor inputs and processing, giving owners the ability to understand more about why food is going to waste so they can take steps to reduce loss. Once the Harvester has done its job, WISErg then collects the nutrient-rich compost and converts it into liquid fertilizer to be sold to local gardeners and organic growers.
The Harvester is powered with smart technology. It weighs the food scraps, photographs the process, generates analytical reports and uploads information to the cloud. This allows owners to compare seasonal trends, or make store-to-store comparisons if they have multiple outlets. The Harvester can be installed inside or outside, and can take in up to 4,000 pounds of food waste per day. Users input any applicable data such as the department where the product originated and the reason why it is being composted.
The idea for the Harvester came about when company founders Larry LeSueur and Jose Lugo decided to apply their extensive skillsets to the issue of food waste. After two years of analyzing university research results, WISErg approached Seattle’s PCC Natural Food Markets with the idea of putting multiple units in place in the stores to test out various operating conditions and inputs. As PCC’s Diana Chapman noted, the markets had already been using a food-scrap collection service, but this involved the waste being trucked a long way offsite to be composted. By composting onsite and then having the more compact compost removed to be converted to liquid fertilizer, transportation was significantly reduced and the markets received an organic, value-added product to sell to customers.
WISErg released its third-generation harvester this year, has signed a contract with Whole Foods, and also has 27 contracts for new onsite installations. They are hoping to begin a national rollout in 2015. LeSueur told Slate: “We’re two years away from truly delivering on what [national grocers’] needs are—mainly because this is a capital-intensive and highly regulated industry, on both the waste and fertilizer sides.”
Photos by WISErg