Monthly Archives: February 2015

How Cloud Technology and Data is Transforming a Company and Redefining an Industry

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By Bill Kratzer, CTO of BioHitech America…

Frank E. Celli is not your typical technology CEO. Frank, a lifelong waste industry veteran once responsible for all aspects of the business including collection, recycling, and landfills saw an opportunity to leverage his knowledge and transform the organic waste industry.

His due diligence led him to the Eco-Safe Digester, a large stainless steel machine that promised to eat large volumes of organic waste in very little time.   Originally, the machine seemed ideal for applications that created large amounts of food waste daily, such as grocery stores and cafeterias. The digester uses oxygen and organic microorganisms to literally digest organic waste.   Because the machine is installed at the point of generation of the waste it eliminates the need to haul the waste away and diverts it from its traditional resting place, the landfill. The only by-product is nutrient-neutral water that can be safely flushed down the sewer drain.

Over the last eight years, the digester has been refined, improved upon and firmly entrenched in a variety of markets across the United States and overseas. Small and large generators of food waste are now using the technology not only to improve their carbon footprint but also to save money. “The digester has afforded our customers with a more efficient, less complicated and financially viable waste disposal solution,” states Frank E. Celli. “As diversion goals are developed and more laws and regulations are passed, the Eco-Safe Digester will become an even more attractive piece to the sustainability puzzle.”

The digester’s story, however, changed in 2013 when a mutual business acquaintance introduced Frank to Bob Joyce.   Bob, at that time, was the president of a Pennsylvania-based company that specialized in data center hardware, operations, and software development.   The two quickly saw an opportunity to integrate their two worlds, one firmly entrenched in food, waste, and industrial equipment and the other involved in servers, storage, networking, and data. Utilizing technology to collect waste data from the source has the potential to reshape the waste process entirely.

The fact that BioHitech America had no existing computing infrastructure was not a problem. Like many new technology start-ups, the company was instantly able to spin-up a virtual data center, using nothing more than a corporate credit card.   Within hours, the company went from having no data center footprint to having nearly 20 virtual machines running in multiple regions in the United States.

The transition was fast and dramatic.   The company quickly transformed itself from selling an alternative waste disposal machine to selling a preventative waste disposal solution. The solution welcomed the addition of Big Data and the Internet of Things providing customers with a tool to do more than dispose of the waste it more importantly teaches them how to prevent it.

Customers can now harness the data from the cloud to track and monitor utilization, report on cost savings, and benchmark diversion goals. A food waste prevention solution that tracks progress and measures impact is good for businesses, communities and the environment.

By the end of 2014, the company had captured billions of pieces of data about the machines and provided its customers with detailed reports to help them prevent food waste before it starts.

Unraveling the mountain of data also highlighted an interesting trend: variations in utilization of the digester often correlated to management problems.   “Data has a unique way of uncovering management problems inside an organization.   If an employee is not using a piece of technology appropriately, there are likely other instances the employee is not doing other things appropriately” says Celli.

The digester once considered a “back of the house” solution is now getting the attention of the front office. BioHitech’s conversations used to be limited to the person in charge of waste.   Now we are talking to the CEO, COO, or CMO.

“Culturally, we needed to think ‘Cloud’ in everything we do, and not just our own product.   As a modern technology company, we had to introduce the value of cloud computing and Software-as-a-Service in everything we do.” says Bill Kratzer, Chief Technology Officer. “Our cloud direction was such a fundamental focus for us. I needed everyone in the company to ‘get it’.   We went all in,” says Celli.

Frank placed a bet, and moved his own company into the modern 21st century.   Now he’s betting that by combining two unlikely industries he can force change within an industry that is in need of change.

Troubling trend in recycling residential food waste

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Residents in Alameda County, California, apparently hit a wall last year in separating kitchen food scraps from their garbage cans, seriously slowing a trend that became standard with curbside pickup across the county in 2008.

What many residents may not know, recycling advocates say, is that the messy task of putting food scraps into a different container and putting it in the green bin helps slow climate change. When people put food in trash cans, it goes to a landfill, where it turns into methane gas, is released into the atmosphere and contributes to global warming.

The data compiled by StopWaste, shows 2014 was a bad year for recycling food scraps compared with 2013 and 47 percent of houses surveyed did not put out their green carts on pickup day, indicating that fewer homes are participating in food scrap and organics recycling,” StopWaste spokesman Jeff Becerra said.

There are several theories for the troubling decline of the county’s food scrap recycling program:

People could simply be tired of doing it because it’s too messy, they have forgotten the environmental reasons it’s important, or could be suffering from food waste fatigue… ‘I’ve been doing this for a year, it smells, and I’m tired of it.’

Once a popular program is now wilting and for those working against climate change have reason to be alarmed.

Reducing your Emissions with a Low-Carbon Investment

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The proper management of food waste is actually a low hanging fruit for investors and society as a whole. It is not just more efficient to track down and manage food waste where it is actually generated; it is also of paramount importance to reduce pollution caused by improper waste management and its subsequent transportation.

But it is also not just the act or cost of transportation or the overall level of pollution associated with food waste disposal that has become a concern, it is the staggering fact that we have little information available and even less understanding of how the impact of food waste affects our society.

A green smart technology solution that helps control and prevent waste can be most effective and prove to be a good investment.

The Eco-Safe Digester offers companies an opportunity to reduce operational costs, become more sustainably resilient, and build brand value with stakeholders.

In the US alone, food eats up 10 per cent of the total energy budget, uses 50% of the available US land and absorbs 80% of the fresh water consumed in the US: yet, about 40% of all the food never gets eaten and goes from the shelves to waste. In terms of value, we can estimate that at about 900 billion US dollars of food going to waste on a yearly basis, a value which is only growing bigger by the day (National Resource Defense Council, 2012).

The 40% of food that never gets to be consumed and goes directly to the dumpster creates even more issues in terms of data monitoring and costs control.

The Eco-Safe Digester solution offers a clear roadmap in terms of proper food waste management so companies can see the impacts to their bottom line and have access to real waste data so they can start to understand how to reduce the amount of food wasted. This should make investors feel more comfortable in making investments in the green technology market.

From an investors’ point of view, tackling food waste represents one of the few opportunities left to re-ignite a new wave of legitimate value creation.