Liquid Fertilizer from Leftovers

Most of us are used to recycling cans and bottles by now. But two companies have developed successful technology to convert what would have been wasted food into liquid fertilizer. These technologies essentially recycle food.

The Digester

One of the companies is called California Safe Soil (CSS) and is located in Old Town Salinas, California. They are also building a plant in McClellan, near Sacramento. The way the system works is by taking produce from grocery stores that cannot be sold or donated and putting it into a “digester,” a tank that is used to cook the food with enzymes. In the process, the enzymes actually mimic the process of human digestion. When the process is complete, the end products are nutrient rich liquid fertilizer and animal feed. CSS markets the fertilizer as Harvest to Harvest (H2H) and the animal feed as Hog Heaven.

Dan Morash is the founder of CSS. “It’s what’s called biomimicry,” Morash said in an interview with the Californian. “It’s exactly what happens in the stomach after lunch. How your digestive system takes food and pulls the nutrients out for use in your body. …We’re just doing that with food with precision equipment in a controlled environment so we can ensure a high-quality result.”

The fertilizer is sold to farmers who store the product in liquid fertilizer tanks and apply the product to the soil through drip systems. The fertilizer is even more nutrient rich than compost, says Morash, because of the process used to extract the nutrients.

The Harvester

The other company is WISErg based in Redmond, Washington. They also have a machine that converts food waste into liquid fertilizer. Known as the Harvester, the machine is placed outside of grocery stores, and employees dump unsaleable food into the machine. The Harvester then performs its magic, turning the unwanted food into liquid fertilizer. The resultant liquid fertilizer is then collected, processed, and packaged for sale to farmers as organic liquid fertilizer.

The Harvester not only recycles wasted food it provides data back to the grocery stores to help them reduce waste in the first place. It records the amount of waste by weight, category of food, and waste by department. This data is aggregated with data from other Harvesters and provided back to the grocery store owners. It helps advise them on their spending habits and how to better manage their inventory to reduce waste.

New National Goals

Both companies are arriving on the scene at just the right time. There are new laws and goals about recycling that US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Environmental Protection Agency Deputy Administrator Stan Meiburg are calling for, including a 50 percent reduction in food waste by 2030. And in California, Governor Jerry Brown has signed two new laws affecting recycling of organic waste.

The two companies are still in their infancy on using the digesters to reduce waste and produce liquid fertilizer. Currently, only 15,000 gallons of Harvest to Harvest is being produced a month. This is not enough to fill even one field erected above ground storage tank. Hopefully as both companies grow and expand to a nationwide application the organic liquid fertilizer can fill up more and more large liquid fertilizer tanks.

So now along with bottles and cans, thanks to these two companies, food that would otherwise be headed to a landfill is being recycled to fill liquid fertilizer tanks for the next crop season.

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