Organic food waste recycling and repurposing is still a relatively nascent industry in the US despite contributing to around 50 million tons of landfill a year, Christian Kasper, the newly-appointed CEO of Harvest Power, tells AgFunderNews.
“That’s a staggering amount,” he says pointing to estimates that just 5 percent of US organic waste is composted or used in anaerobic digestion compared with 75 percent in European countries such as Germany.
Anaerobic digesters take organic waste and convert it into energy — natural gas and electricity — and ‘digestate’, a byproduct used in fertilizer and other organic soil supplements.
Harvest Power, a Boston-headquartered organic food waste recycling and anaerobic digester construction company, is focused on changing those figures and has just raised $20 million in growth capital from existing investors to expand its business.
The funding round is an extension to the company’s $20 million Series D in October 2014 and involves the same investors: Chicago-based True North Venture Partners, San Francisco-based Industry Ventures and London-based Generational Investment Management.
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The capital will be used to expand the company’s facilities and services — which include anaerobic digesters; green waste disposal, hauling and recycling; composting; and depackaging –, invest in the company’s energy development business, and continue the roll out the company’s growing line of consumer-facing fertilizer and soil supplement products.
The funding round takes Harvest Power’s total fundraising efforts to $244.5 million and also coincides with the appointment of Kasper as CEO. The company’s CFO since May 2014, Kasper has replaced Kathleen Ligocki.
“Organic food waste management is still a relatively early stage opportunity in the US, and one of the greatest challenges isn’t building the infrastructure, but getting a reliable stream of feedstock for the anaerobic digesters,” he said. “It’s a chicken and egg situation.”
One of the three anaerobic digesters designed and developed by Harvest Power is at Disney World in Florida, providing the resort with an efficient organic waste disposal system. For Harvest Power, there are several revenue streams from the anaerobic digestion process including the electricity produced and sold back to the district; the waste disposal fees from Disney; and the sale of its range of soil supplement and fertilizer products made using the digestate byproduct.
The company is currently selling 35 million bags a year of product through major retailers such as Home Depot and Lowes, according to Kasper.
Disney’s anaerobic digester use microbes to break down a mixture of 20 percent food waste, 20 percent fats, oils, and grease, and 60 percent treated sewage from Disney’s wastewater treatment plant nearby. Harvest Power is also active in the wastewater space and is currently working with a major municipality on building a treatment plant, according to Kasper.
So what does the future hold for the company’s investors? “Like all investors, ultimately they will look for an exit, but that’s not imminent,” said Kasper. “We have an opportunity to grow the business in scale and profitability, and take advantage of what we see as a significantly increasing number of communities looking to deal with the challenges that organic food waste presents. So it will be ‘heads down’ for the next few years as we solve these challenges.”
Image credit: US Department of Agriculture on Flikr
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