Reducing the wastage of diminishing food resources and returning nutrients to the circular economy to contribute to the next production cycle is critical to our future.
Circular Food is all about closing the loop on food waste. Over the past 18 months we have been working hard behind the scenes building the foundations of a large company capable of having a significant positive impact diverting food organics from landfill and regenerating Australian soils.
We’ve studied all known technologies globally for extracting nutrients from food waste and getting them back into the soil, and we’ve maintained our focus on scalability, wanting to grow large and fast, where possible in partnership with existing solutions in the spirit of the circular economy.
What we have found is that worms produce high quality soil amendments from organic waste but in order to scale up a worm farm to have a sizable impact on food waste, a rural property is the only option, and then you get the negative of transporting food waste around the country.
In the city, we’ve found two technologies of great interest, AD (Anaerobic Digestion) and Food Waste Dehydrators (sometimes called organics units). AD can use food and other organic waste to extract methane which can then be used to generate electricity. A good example is Yarra Valley Water’s AD plant at Wollert in Melbourne. Food waste dehydrators are great for reducing the volume of food waste in densely populated areas where minimising truck movements is an important part of the solution.
Both the technologies mentioned here produce residual material with no clear value add – until now. After 18 months of focussed R&D including projects in partnership with CSIRO, Yarra Valley Water and Closed Loop, and with the support of AusIndustry’s R&D Tax Incentive Program, we have developed an organic fertiliser that closes the loop on the AD and dehydration processes and incorporates the beneficial soil microbes from worm castings.
Our intent is to close the loop on food waste and in doing so, help to restore global soil health in order to sustainably feed our growing population into the future. This means creating a viable alternative to chemical fertilisers from what used to be known as food waste.
We believe that in the future, waste will be one of our greatest resources. We are helping to develop a framework for this future based on the new circular economy.
Part of our business model involves licensing fertiliser plants, which can easily be located on a farm or in a community, so that waste can be processed into fertiliser in the location where the product is needed.
The story so far…
The idea for Circular Food (turning food waste into fertiliser) was conceived in late 2015 and after much research the company was officially established in early 2016. The undisputed kings of organic waste recycling are the humble earthworm and mimicking nature is our chosen strategy as well.
We started with the acquisition of Vermicrobe International, a vermiculture (worm farming) business previously based in northern NSW. After shipping the assets and intellectual property to Melbourne began the journey of developing a commercial worm farm in a major urban area to covert food waste to fertiliser.
Along the way it became clear that although the resultant bio-fertiliser products are brilliant both for soil and plant health, the economic model would not scale up effectively in an urban setting and the volumes of food waste that could be recycled were not rapidly scalable either.
By late 2016 work began in earnest to leverage the worm derived products into a lower cost, higher volume fertiliser product still based on 100% food waste inputs. A year or more of intensive R&D with project partners CSIRO and others has resulted in a brilliant organic fertiliser product set to change the game.
We still make and sell BIG BIO® brand worm castings and worm leachate but our future is the new fertiliser called BIG BIO Organic Fertiliser™. We have the product developed and the manufacturing process finalised. At time of writing (January 2018), we are manufacturing on a small scale and about to commence extensive third party performance trials.
The focus now is capital raising to build a pilot plant here at Somerton and launch the new product. Please stay tuned.
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