WISErg Corporation

WISErg is focused on creating a revolutionary solution for diverting food scraps from landfills, composters, and digesters.

Monday 12 June 2017

A. The main facts about the activities of the company.

WISErg is a hybrid technology company combining bio-, clean-, and high-tech systems to create a revolutionary solution for managing urban-generated organics. It was founded in 2009 by Jose Lugo and Larry LeSueur, respectively specialised in software engineering and management, and has its headquarters based in Washington. After raising $48.6M through crowdfunding campaigns and private investors, they launched commercially the Harvester in 2014 and achieved early success nationally. In 2016, WISErg won the Katerva award in the smart cities category, also know as the Nobel Prize for Sustainability.

The Harvester product is a machine that transforms food waste into high-quality fertiliser before it becomes waste. Concretely, the Harvester grinds food scraps into a nutrient-rich slurry. The slurry is stabilised and stored nearby in a fully enclosed tank until it can be systematically collected by WISErg. The Harvester is designed to minimise the time and effort required by employees. A user simply enters a passcode and applicable data on the Harvester’s touchscreen menu. This data is provided back to the customer, giving them visibility into what is going out the back door. The Harvester captures weight, department, waste type, etc., allowing stakeholders to make better-informed future purchasing decisions. Operation of the Harvester is monitored remotely in real-time by WISErg technicians to ensure continuous, trouble-free operation.

As a result, the Harvester provides 4 main benefits:

-  Cost effectiveness
Immediate ROI
Reporting of food scraps loaded by department
Allowing comparative reporting

-  Ease of use
Odor-free, self-cleaning, and pest-free
Simple, multilingual interface
Secure cloud based reporting
Monitored remotely by WISErg

-  Manage shrink
Data reporting leading to better monitoring and management of inventory losses to avoid unnecessary shrink
Track food disposal over time

-  Promote sustainability
Lowers greenhouse gas emissions
Full nutrient recovery from food scrap
Food scraps refined into organic fertilisers used by growers to grow tomorrow’s food

Once the stabilised slurry is collected from the tanks by WISErg and transferred to a nearby WISErg facility, it is processed into fertiliser. The fertilisers are approved for use in organic crop production and are water soluble and balanced to support healthy soils and healthy plants.

B. The Ethical challenges this company is addressing.

Nowadays, traditional approaches to managing food waste like land filling, commercial composting, and anaerobic digestion are waste and environmentally unfriendly. For example, anaerobic digestion negatively impact air quality due to their greenhouse gas emissions. These approaches still waste the valuable nutrients available in that discarded food. Moreover, these methods create unpleasant odors, runoff and pests. In addition to the environmental impact, the inefficiencies in today’s solutions are leading to increased regulation and increased costs for grocers and other food service facilities. In the US, cities and states are starting to regulate how food waste should be handled and traditional waste methods are no longer an option in the some of the regions. Their WisErganic fertiliser starts with food scraps from produce, fish, meat, etc. These scraps are then loaded in the a Harvester which stabilises and transforms the food scraps in to nutrient rich liquid and finally processed into fertiliser. This is a very different proposition than making fertiliser out of petroleum products and chemicals. Conclusively, WisErg enables businesses to turn the problem of food scrap disposal into an opportunity for our communities and the environment by solving the ethical challenges linked with food waste by focusing on energy impact, air quality impact, and organic composition.

C. What makes you believe this company is really ethical and why you trust it?

Firstly, more than CSR or actions aimed at increasing profits by showing a green or a socially caring image, the business model itself is based on the idea of sustainability. Indeed, the ethical actions the company is acting on are not secondary but the principal field of action of WISErg. They literally designed a product and services aiming at solving one of the problem challenging sustainability nowadays. Moreover, the high transparency of the company registered as private enhance the trustworthy relationship even further.

Moreover, WISErg’s business values and ethical values translate into their partnership decisions. In fact, they sell their fertilisers to supermarket chains such as Whole Foods Market and PCC Natural Markets, known to be ethically correct.

The most inspiring factor about WISErg is their revolutionary way of doing business. Indeed, WISErg is using a concept from the blue economy theories. In fact, our industries produce in line, whereas nature, for example, produce in cycle. Indeed, there is no pickup system in place to collect leafs when they fell off trees. As we produce in line, we are the only species producing items that no one wants. And something that no one wants is called waste. By using yesterday’s food to produce tomorrow’s food, WISErg is one of the first company to produce in cycle, rather than in line, eliminating waste. As a result, they apply Gunter Pauli’s idea, which says that it is not nature that should produce like our factories, but it is our factories that have to produce like nature.

D.The possible challenges facing the company in the future and how you think this company may improve.

First of all, WisErg might have issues with legal compliance. Due to the initial investment to acquire the Harvester, if environmental laws were about to change in the future, product updates will probably be very costly. Nonetheless, it is unlikely to happen in the near future as the company is ahead of the curve on food waste regulation. Moreover, as Donald Trump was recently being elected as the president of the United States, stricter regulations on topics such as food waste are unlikely to be voted in the next four years.

Another concern for WisErg is that the company uses cloud-based software for reporting. Although cloud-based softwares have been showed to be as secure and effective as standard softwares, if not more, it is still thought as a black box hardly understood by a significant part of the business population. As a result, companies, and especially SMEs with lower technological expertise might be reluctant to use the product.

Another potential concerns to customers is the lack of control as well as returns on food waste. Indeed, as the process is systematically fully managed by WisErg, including the ownership of the slurry made from food scraps, the process leads to a lack of control over operations from customers point of view as well as a lower potential financial return on food waste. Nonetheless, it also means no lower operation costs for customers, as maintenance, and food scrap processing and transports is made by WISErg. This tradeoff needs to be considered by potential customers and can demotivate some companies to make use of WISErg’ services.

Lastly, as WisErg is still at an early stage and operate only in a reduce geographical area, transporting the slurry from the Harvesters to nearby owned factories to be processed into fertilisers is doable. Nevertheless, it can be seen that growing the business will require high financial and equipments investments, as slurries from every harvesters will need to be transported to a nearby factory before maximum capacity of the tanks are reached. This will require the presence of factories processing the slurry into fertilisers over a broad geographical area if the company decides to expand nationally or even globally, as well as extremely precise time management and transportation schedules to collect the slurry before maximum capacity of the Harvesters are reached.



Location: Washington (United States of America)

Sector: Water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities

Official website: https://wiserg.com

Nbr. visits: 128