It sounds crazy, but believe it or not, somewhere around 40 percent of all the food produced in the US is wasted. We put all kinds of time and energy into producing it, but we still end up throwing 40 percent of it away and sending it off to a landfill. It’s incredibly wasteful — but Seattle-based upstart Impact Bioenergy has developed something to help.
For the past few years, the company has been developing a revolutionary new biodigester machine (dubbed the Horse) that takes raw food waste (and a whole lot more) and transforms it into electricity and fertilizer. Working at full capacity (135 pounds of waste), the machine is capable of producing 360,000 BTUs of gross energy per day — including 125 kilowatts of electricity.
Truth be told, the technology that the Horse runs on isn’t particularly new. Anaerobic biodigesters have been around for decades at this point: California has a huge one that processes 100 tons of waste per day, and the Detroit Zoo uses one to generate energy from animal poop. It’s not new, but what sets The Horse apart is the fact that it’s designed to be portable and easy to use. The entire machine is built on top of a trailer, and comes with simple controls for managing power output, gas collection, and maintenance.
Details on the inner workings of the Horse are hard to come by, but here’s how it probably works — assuming that it functions like every other biodigester out there. You start by feeding food into the machine’s digestion chamber. This can be pretty much anything biodegradeable — dining room scraps, meat, grease, oil, egg shells, bones, paper products, grass clippings, and even small sticks or bits of wood. After that, you introduce some special bacteria into the chamber, hit a couple buttons, and let the machine mix everything up. Once that’s done, you just let the bacteria do their thing. These little buggers will gobble up all the organic material and fart out methane gas, which the Horse can use to generate electricity. And when it’s all said and done, the leftover material (called digestate) can be used as a fertilizer.
Impact Bioenergy believes that the Horse’s portable, easy-to-use design will make bioenergy more accessible, and hopefully eradicate or greatly reduce curbside garbage pickup, as well as the carbon emissions associated with hauling waste to landfills. Thing is, though, the company doesn’t have any big venture capital partners to help industrialize the technology — so they’ve turned to the crowdfunding community on Kickstarter instead. If Impact can raise $20K before October 10, it’ll be able to get the ball rolling.