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Using Tech to Transform the Food Waste Game

Foodservice Equipment Journal: In the kitchen sector, BioHiTech Global really does have the ability to challenge the status quo

The term ‘disrupter’ has become an over-used phrase among companies desperate to convince investors and clients they have conceived a completely game-changing product or service. But in the kitchen sector, BioHiTech Global is bidding to show that it really does have the ability to challenge the status quo with a system that converts food waste into safe, nutrient-free water and arms users with all the analysis they could ever need on their operational habits.

As long as there is a need to eat, there will always be a degree of food wastage. But that doesn’t mean the foodservice industry shouldn’t be doing anything about. Quite the opposite, in fact. Data from government body WRAP suggests the issue costs the sector some £2.5 billion a year in the UK alone. Globally the figure rises to hundreds of billions.

Fortunately there is an entire manufacturing base out there dedicated to providing solutions to this burgeoning problem. From software that helps operators get a handle on how much preventable food waste they create in the first place to uncompromising systems that process leftovers using a multitude of methods, it no longer has to be the expensive, environmentally-damaging task that it was once perceived.

One company endeavouring to plough its own furrow in this rapidly-changing and often complex market landscape is BioHiTech Global, the US-based technology and services outfit that successfully listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange earlier this year. Its goal is to establish the first vertically-integrated waste management services company that reduces waste generation and virtually eliminates landfill usage while creating a valuable renewable fuel.

The firm’s ‘disruptive’ technology, which comprises highly intelligent stainless steel food waste machines that can be installed within commercial kitchens, eliminates food waste onsite by aerobic digestion. Food waste can be placed into to the machine on an ongoing basis throughout the day and biological micro-organisms reduce it into liquid, leaving the resulting grey water to be safely drained to a standard sewer line.

Described as acting like a “giant stomach”, oxygen, temperature and water are the only variables present in the process. There are no chemicals or airborne contaminates involved, nor does the system generate any solids that need to be handled. Operators can choose from four different machines depending on their volume requirements, ranging from an entry-level system capable of processing 227kg of food waste every 24 hours to the largest system, which can comfortably handle more than 1,000kg in the same period.

Kerry Vaughan, who has worked in the waste industry for 26 years, joined BioHiTech as European business development director at the end of last year and she says that not only does the system eliminate bagging and waste collection costs, it replaces the need for food grinders and compactors and can be operated by anyone.

“It is a very smart solution for food waste that is designed in durable stainless steel to complement industrial kitchen equipment and will fit nicely into any kitchen area. It’s easy to keep clean, saves space back-of-house as bins can be removed and delivers benefits in terms of cost savings and carbon footprint. We are already working with a number of major restaurant, hotel and retail clients, but we are also targeting universities, education, prisons, hospitals and the public sector. All those places would benefit from the technology,” she comments.

One of the most valuable aspects of the system is that it features proprietary cloud technology that tracks every ounce of waste deposited into the machine by hour, day, month, employee, location or type of food. This provides operators with a dashboard of food waste analysis, allowing them to drill down to the performance of single or multiple locations.

“This really is the beauty of the product — everything is weighed and sent to an app where you can monitor the trends of the business through the data control,” explains Vaughan. “So if you operate two restaurants, two hotels or two shopping centres, for example, you could compare one against the other and look at best practice.”

Operators are showing increasing appetite for data capture and telemetry as they seek to better understand the way their equipment and operations behave, and this clearly applies to food waste too. Having access to reports that provide comprehensive food waste data gives operators enormous power to make informed decisions about purchasing, staffing and operational behaviour to control costs, prevent waste and save the environment, argues Vaughan.

“Many of our clients have been really successful with taking the data, examining the trends and looking at portion controls and the reasons why they are generating food waste at particular times. This can then help with staffing levels in the kitchen area and how many people they need to dispose of food waste at a particular time. As we are part of the Carbon Alliance, we have a carbon tracker on our app that clients can access as well as a range of reports that they can run for data analysis.”

In the context of the global foodservice manufacturing market, BioHiTech still remains a fledgling and financially small player. In 2017 the company posted an operating loss of $6.6m (£5m) on a turnover of just $2.4m (£1.8m), up 8% year-on-year. But senior management are very much looking at the long game as they bid to build lasting value for its stockholders and capitalise on a market they think is there for the taking.

Non-convertible debt and fixed price convertible equity financing transactions made by the company last year have improved its balance sheet, while investments in software development and renewable waste facilities are designed to strengthen its foundations for expansion. Additionally, the firm’s first set of quarterly results since it floated underline the growth potential of its business model, notably a 42% increase in pure rental sales that provide a continuous revenue stream. And major bluechip companies are already using the company’s solutions, with customers including the likes of Dunkin’ Donuts, Hard Rock Cafe, Hilton, Marriott, Sysco and UBS.

The stars are also aligning for the company in other ways, not least a growing legislative focus on food waste and an emphasis on foodservice operators to act responsibly.

Vaughan says: “Food and other waste streams have to be segregated now as part of the TEEP regulations. Food waste has always been a problem waste stream because of its very nature — it attracts flies and pests, so our unique system and smart solution eliminates that and helps people with the reporting of that volume. Sometimes food waste goes into general waste and that is obviously very difficult for us to analyse, but we work with the client all the way through to make sure that it is a tailor-made proposal.”

For BioHiTech, the key to greater things rests on getting operators to understand the value of the system lies in its ability to do more than just process food waste ecologically. “It aids the whole foodservice delivery process, from creation to disposal,” insists Vaughan. “Once people understand how to embrace the intelligence they start to appreciate the more that it can do. It will help them to become better informed about their business and that will positively affect their bottom line.”

With its combination of innovative technology and sustainable waste disposal, BioHiTech is relishing the opportunity to take on industry incumbents with its disruptive food waste management services.

Major hotel supply contract includes 20 units in 2018

BioHiTech Global is set to drive the adoption of its sustainable waste management solution in the UK after landing a contract with a “major international hotel chain”. The company said it has been selected as a pre-approved supplier of food waste digesters for the unnamed chain and expects to deliver a minimum of 20 units in 2018. It has now begun marketing its Revolution Series and Eco-Safe Digesters to more than 150 of the chain’s individual hotel properties in the UK and expects the deal to open the door to other additional markets serviced by the hotel group over time.

Frank E. Celli, CEO of BioHiTech Global, said the contract is an important first step in helping the hotel operator achieve its sustainability goals while reducing costs associated with disposal and generation of excess waste. “It will also serve as a as an example for other hospitality companies in the European region to follow for the future,” he says. “We are excited to work with environmentally-driven companies that not only understand the importance of sustainable waste disposal but also see the value in utilising data analytics to reduce waste generation.”

Patent highlights drive for food waste innovation
BioHiTech Global has received a patent from the US Patent and Trademark Office in a sign of how the company is using proprietary technology to change the way that operators manage and examine food waste. The patent relates to a food waste weight tracking system and method using a waste disposal machine with data network connectivity to transmit weight tracking system information over a computer network, or cloud, for storage, tracking aggregation and sharing by a centralised computer system.

Food waste data is becoming increasingly more important to customers, not only for improving efficiency through better supply chain management, but for providing evidence of compliance in those areas where disposal of food waste is regulated by government.

“Having this patent in hand is a major competitive advantage for BioHiTech as we now have the only integrated solution to measure food waste volumes directly from a disposal unit, such as our aerobic digesters or any other PLC-controlled food waste disposal device, and share that data for analysis immediately via any network or the cloud,” explains Frank E. Celli, CEO of BioHiTech.

BioHiTech has additional patents pending as part of its IP protection strategy and said it will continue its product innovation efforts to further enhance its competitive advantage, drive future revenue growth and build lasting value for stockholders.

Product spec sheet & site preparation
BioHiTech Global’s food waste aerobic digester system is available in three models and four sizes:
Seed: Up to 227kg/24hrs
Sprout: Up to 295kg/24hrs
Eco-Safe 4: Up to 360kg/24hrs
Eco-Safe 12: Up to 1,090kg/24hrs

Power: EU 400V, 3 Phase, 50Hz (16amp). Seed and Sprout machines are 230V, single phase
Water: Cold and hot water lines and mixing valve
Drainage: 2-inch drain pipe and 3-inch floor drain
Data: Hardline ethernet connection

Benefits: Environmental
- Eliminates the transportation of organic waste, lowers carbon emissions
- Contributes to targets for diverting waste from landfills
- Extends the lifespan of the county’s disposal facilities
- Reduces groundwater and soil contamination at landfills
- Reduces harmful greenhouse gases that contribute to global climate change
- Recycles food waste into renewable resources (clean water)

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