Tag Archives: Frank E. Celli

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.

New NYC Food Waste Recycling Law Will Have a National Impact

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With only four days remaining in 2013, the New York City Council passed path-breaking legislation requiring commercial food scraps from the largest food service establishments to be recycled. The new “Commercial Organic Waste” policy continues the momentum of similar state-wide policies requiring food waste recycling passed in Vermont and Connecticut and initiatives in cities like San Francisco, Austin, Portland and Seattle. Expected to be signed into law in early 2014, Mayor Michael Bloomberg noted that “[this] initiative is a significant step towards our NYC goal of diverting more waste from landfills” intended to reduce the City’s greenhouse gas emissions from waste disposal. “Nationally, this will bring attention to one of the easiest steps cities and states can take to improve the environment and economy: require organics in the waste stream to be recycled just like everyone should recycle glass, metal, paper and plastic.”

NYC’s extraordinary action will be a shot of adrenaline to the growing on-site digester, biogas, and compost industries which are ready, able and willing to manage organic wastes as a resource. This policy fulfills a fundamental next step in forcing companies to define proper waste management strategies for those generating large amounts of food waste that can no longer be sent to landfills.  On-site aerobic digestion is one of the more progressive and reliable technology solutions available on the market today.  Products like the Eco-Safe Digester handles food waste at the point of generation with no residual food waste to store or transport while converting food into net new water.  It is that simple and that easy.

Combined with the City’s recent adoption of a law establishing organic resource collection pilots from schools and residences, building on the install base of on-site digesters already implemented in dozens of locations, and the initial efforts by local haulers to begin the process of diverting organics, Intro 1162 extends the City’s intention to divert thousands of tons of food scraps from disposal in distant landfills to a range of better, local options.

With the passage of this initiative, NYC is taking a bold and decisive step toward establishing a sustainable environment for its citizens. BioHitech America is working closely with more than two dozen commercial food waste generators and the City to promote the use of the Eco-Safe Digester in order to ensure the economic and environmental success of this important legislation. Frank E. Celli, CEO of BioHitech America’s Eco-Safe Digester commented, that “we are prepared and available, anytime to lend our expertise to New Yorkers and their businesses in order to help them set up a process to manage their organic material properly.”

Getting Serious About Going Green

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The green movement craze is over. No, it’s not because people aren’t interested. In fact just the opposite is true. Now that the press has turned its watchful eye away from the glitz and glamour of green, it’s giving hoteliers and industry suppliers and opportunity to actually get down to business to create solutions that will have widespread effect on what hotels consume and recycle.

And the adoption of a green and sustainable philosophy is starting to take place at smaller boutique operating and management companies, as well as mega-corporations. This environmental awakening was the focus of a panel discussion held at this year’s sold-out Buyer Interactive Trade Alliance & Conference (BITAC) F&B sponsored by Hotel Interactive, which is taking place this week at Wynn Encore Las Vegas.

Most telling in regards to how the sustainability movement is sweeping across the hotel business is the awakening of meeting planners and guests in becoming more cognizant of what hotels are doing to curb waste.

In fact both hotel decision makers and industry suppliers are seeing a massive sea change in demand for greener facilities. According to a real-time poll of BITAC participants, 51.28 percent of conference attendees said guests or meeting planners specifically asked about sustainability efforts. In addition, nearly 20 percent are asking basic questions.

“It was all about green-washing in the beginning. Everyone was jumping on the bandwagon. It was about not changing bed linens and saying ‘we’re a green hotel’. Or getting certified by some questionable party. It’s changing as we work at cost containment and green,” said Quentin Incao, Director of Operations, MTM Luxury Lodging, whose company just opened the Bardessono, a luxury resort in Napa seeking LEED Gold certification.

“The reason green is taking hold is it’s good business, its smart business. There’s nothing wrong with doing something that is good for the environment and saves money,” said Jeff Slye, Chief Evolution Officer of Business Evolution Consulting, strategic advisers to Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants.

According to Mark van Hartsevelt, principal Gemstone Hospitality, meeting planners are the ones that are really driving change. He is seeing more and more planners ask via survey what his luxury boutique hotels are doing to incorporate sustainability into the properties his company manage. “They’re asking what we do to be green. Do we have plastic bottles on the table? What kind of detergent do we use? If you don’t answer the question right, you don’t get the business,” said van Hartsevelt.

Tony Reiss is the executive director of purchasing MGM Grand Hotel and Casino ,and during the discussion he said that almost all companies are moving in that direction, but questions – like many others – what exactly is green anyway. “Where’s that threshold that says whether you’re green or not? We’re trying to come up with (metrics). It’s critical to meeting planners for us to have integrity and we are tracking things going forward to better understand what we can do to further this effort,” said Reiss.

Interestingly, the vast majority of companies represented at BITAC: F&B consider their organization green or pursuing an environmentally responsible initiative. In all 66.1 percent of attendees said they’re green while about 13 percent either don’t know where to begin or plan to get greener when the economy bounces back.

Even with such strong results, Frank E. Celli, CEO of BioHitech America, said there’s a misconception that green has to be expensive. “There’s going to be some economically driven answers,” he said, also noting it’s critical for the industry to have an accepted definition of what green actually means. “Green for one person might not be the same for another person. I don’t know that green is going to be defined in the dictionary.”

Donald Lee, Manger of Sourcing and Procurement with Disney World Wide Services, said do not get overwhelmed with going green, just take baby steps. He also said it’s critical the movement be driven by employees.

“We find cast members who are passionately engaged about the environment. Then we put them on a task force and ask them what can we do about going green,” said Lee.

Haussman, Glenn. 2009. Getting Serious About Going Green. New York, NY:
http://www.hotelinteractive.com/article.aspx?articleid=12903
Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Meet Elsie Greener

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The Community Food Bank of New Jersey and BioHitech’s Organic Waste Removal System

There’s a newcomer in the Salvage area: a hip and polished female with square shoulders and a low carbon footprint. She eats heartily and has the digestive capacity of a small tank. Correction: make that a large tank.

Elsie Greener is gleaming stainless steel: about 6′ wide, 4′ deep and 4 1/2′ high. Her welcoming mouth – – think of it as the door to her digestive tract – – is on the slanted top surface. Known in the trade as a “digester,” Elsie is made in Korea for a US company called BioHitech America.

Elsie, the first of her breed at the FoodBank and probably not the last, receives visitors in her permanent location about 50′ from the kitchen door which opens into the warehouse. “She’s up and running,” Executive Chef Paul Kapner tells cooking school students and staff. Get to know her, he says. She’s changing the way we do business in the kitchen. How so? Elsie’s appetite is for food waste only. On a white chalk board, next to the door to the cafeteria, the chef has listed “Digester Rules.” The “no’s include paper, wood, glass, hot liquid, fryer oil, plastic gloves, and bleach.

Elsie’s best friend and principal operator is David Bailey, who has been working in Salvage for the past four years. With his thin handsome face framed in dreads and a radiant smile, David is poster material for the FoodBank’s green future. Given the opportunity to name the machine, he fixed on “Elsie.” Everyone knows Elsie, David said by way of explanation. She’s friendly and likeable. Of course, the famous Elsie gives milk. This techie, save-the-planet Elsie turns waste food into a miso soup-like liquid which is re-cycled in water treatment plants along with the FoodBank’s sink water and toilet water.

How about a last name, I asked David when the machine first arrived. How about Greener? It will be helpful, I suggested, in explaining Elsie’s function to kids and other volunteers. If you say “Greener,” they’ll think re-cycling; they’ll get it. David agreed. I told David that I’d like to acknowledge her mixed heritage and Asian technological savvy with a middle initial – – Elsie K. (for Korea) Greener. That’s too much to explain, David said.

David, who is 30, has a feel for cows and the rhythms of nature. Raised on a family farm in Jamaica, he helped care for chickens, pigs, goats and sheep. And yes, he occasionally milked cows. He remembers, as a kid, getting up at 4:30 am to feed the animals. He remembers walking five miles to the store to buy feed and five miles back. He remembers the mess, the barnyard odors, and the back-breaking labor. Caring for Elsie, by comparison, is simple, David says. She does almost all the work herself.

Like an active teen-ager, Elsie needs constant feeding: ideally, 200 pounds of waste every four hours and up to 1200 pounds per day – – or less than half of the FoodBank’s daily total. This intake yields 100 pounds of liquid (waste water), which runs directly into the warehouse’s sewer. In addition, Elsie requires a balanced diet: a mixture of vegetables, protein and carbohydrates — and nothing (like corn cobs or T-bones from steak) that a healthy human system would reject. I’ll modify that: Elsie’s okay with chicken bones and fish entrails, even uncooked rice and pasta. She tolerates some fats and liquids, too. But heavy doses of cooking oil will clog her system.

To introduce FoodBank workers to Elsie, Frank E. Celli, the CEO of BioHitech America, spent several days during September 2009 at the warehouse. A compact and energetic man in his 40’s, Frank worked in “waste” for 20 years before getting into green technology. At 11 am on a sunny September morning, he met with a dozen FoodBank staff members, many in dark green tee shirts that say “staff.” A couple of chefs in white jackets joined the group as Frank described the science and environmental benefits of the machine.

How does a digester digest? How does Elsie do her job? He explained that several strands of bacteria are introduced into her “body” which provides a perfect environment for the process: it keeps the bacteria warm, wet and oxygenated, he said, and thus able to break food down into liquid.
Frank opened the metal door on Elsie’s topside and reached in. He grabbed a handful of what looked like beef chili mixed with zucchini and pepper chunks. It’s not going make my hand diseased, he said. When I thrust my own right hand in, I was surprised to find the mixture on the dry side and not at all smelly. What’s more, it didn’t cling to the skin. I accepted a paper towel from Frank and returned to my note taking.

The digester, as the CEO in jeans explained, will save the FoodBank thousands of dollars every year in waste disposal. It will reduce the organization’s carbon footprint by keeping (fuel inefficient) garbage trucks off the road and lessening the burden on the nation’s overloaded landfill. (These days New Jersey’s waste is transported to Pennsylvania for disposal.) Once you know the routine, Frank assured his audience, this machine will make your jobs easier. With less waste standing around, waiting to be carted away, the digester will also keep the FoodBank cleaner – – and less attractive to rodents.

Elsie, we learned, is surprisingly low maintenance. Micro-organisms are added every three months; and the system needs a cleaning only twice a year. Unlike milk-producing creatures, Elsie has few moving parts. She takes care of herself – – provided she’s fed correctly and constantly. That’s David’s job. He’s going to be busy. He may even need an assistant for some weekends and nights – – to get maximum value from Elsie. I’ll work as much as they need me, he said. But even if Elsie never takes a break, he continued, the FoodBank’s waste is too much for her. We need a herd if we really gonna be green.

Doris Friedensohn
25 January 2010