A startup is using anaerobic digestion to turn food waste into fuel — using bacteria to break down the waste
Spotted: Startup StormFisher has developed a business model that is win-win for everyone involved. The company collects food waste from restaurants, grocery stores and other sources, and puts it through a process called anaerobic digestion, which produces methane. The methane is then used as biogas.
In anaerobic digestion, bacteria are used to break down the food waste. The bacteria emit methane-rich biogas as a waste product. This biogas can be burned for electricity or heat, or further refined to create renewable natural gas (RNG), which has additional uses. By keeping the food waste out of landfills, the amount of methane released into the atmosphere through natural decomposition is lessened, and burning biogas also emits less carbon dioxide than fossil fuels.
The process is a win-win in other ways as well. StormFisher is paid to take away the food waste and can sell the fuel. Around 60 per cent of the company’s revenue comes from energy sales and 40 per cent from waste-processing fees. The company also produces and sells fertiliser made from the digested waste.
The technology used by StormFisher could play a role in the transition to renewable energy. Although it cannot produce enough power to replace fossil fuels, RNG could be part of the solution, as well as reducing emissions from landfills. According to Brandon Gilroyed, an associate professor at the University of Guelph, who researches anaerobic digestion, “It’s not a solution on its own, but it definitely can be part of the overall solution.”
Reducing carbon emissions and finding new renewable resources of energy is vital to mitigating global warming. Recently, we have seen an increase in the types of materials used to produce biofuels, and in the uses of the fuels themselves. These include biofuels made from brewery waste and the use of biofuel to power a tugboat.
Written By: Lisa Magloff