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Australia, US Finding New Ways to Chip Away at Food Waste

Approximately 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted around the world each year, putting unnecessary strain on natural resources, needlessly producing greenhouse gas emissions and contributing to climate change. Two startups in Australia and the US are working to change that with the opening of a rescued-food supermarket and the launch of a technology that turns food waste into nutrient-rich fertilizer.

Perishable food rescue organization OzHarvest has opened Australia’s first ever rescued-food supermarket — The OzHarvest Market — in Kensington, Sydney.

Founded in November 2004 by Ronni Kahn, OzHarvest collects quality excess food from more than 2,000 commercial outlets, such as supermarkets, hotels, wholesalers, farmers, catering companies, and restaurants, and delivers it to more than 900 charities across Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Gold Coast, Melbourne, Newcastle and Perth.

“The OzHarvest Market is our latest innovation to tackle food waste and eliminate hunger,” said Kahn. “It supports OzHarvest’s purpose to nourish our country, by making sure good food does not go to waste and is available to everyone.”

OzHarvest Market operates on a “take what you need, give if you can” model and aims to connect surplus food that would otherwise go to landfill with those in need, thereby tackling the issue of food insecurity, as well as reducing environmental impacts.

“We only take food that is absolutely edible. We’re … showing our consumers how insane it is that this produce has been rejected.”

The store stocks a range of products from fresh produce, bread, canned goods and frozen meals to toiletries and home products, which vary each week depending on what is rescued or provided by food donors. Everything in the store is free for those who can’t afford to pay and those who are able can make a donation of any amount.

Located on the ground floor of the TOGA Addison Project, the retail space was donated by developer TOGA while the organization awaits council approval on proposed developments. The store is powered by volunteers and open weekdays from 10 am – 2 pm for as long as the site is available.

Meanwhile, New Jersey-based startup KDC Ag in partnership with California Safe Soil is commercializing a process that rapidly turns food waste into fertilizer.

KDC Ag sources discarded food, such as meat, bones, fruits, vegetables and baked goods, that would otherwise end up in landfill from supermarkets, donates what it can to charity and then uses the remainder to create nutrient-rich fertilizer.

The collected waste is then subjected to a patented aerobic digestive enzymatic process, which produces a liquid fertilizer called Harvest-to-Harvest (H2H). The fertilizer is fully organic and chemical free and third-party trials have shown a 10 to 40 percent increase in crop yield per acre with 25 percent less water.

As a pasteurized, liquid fertilizer, H2H can be applied through drip irrigation lines as a replacement for traditional compost to revive soil nutrients after each crop cycle.

“This technology is significantly benefiting the food chain, the environment and production agriculture.”

KDC Ag currently has one food waste processing facility in Sacramento, Calif. that digests 15 tons of food waste every three hours, with another in the works in New Jersey that will process between 60 to 100 tons of waste during the same time period. The company is hopeful that further scaling the process will help eliminate food waste in the US in the next five years.


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