Alex Arnold spent much of his childhood working as a farm laborer on his uncle’s sheep and cattle estate on the southeast coast of South Australia.
“I always noticed there were a lot of grasshoppers and other insects crawling and jumping all over the place,” said Mr Arnold, now 32. The new daily.
“It was a plague at the time. But there were more insects than cattle.
So he wondered what would happen if, rather than trying to eliminate insects, “we embraced them and raised them.”
Today, Mr Arnold and his partner Phoebe Gardner, 28, are co-founders of a Melbourne startup that recycles food waste into fertilizer and animal feed using only insects.
Bardee treats over 10,000 kilograms of food waste daily using state-of-the-art technology, interrupting a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, replacing unsustainable farming practices and saving money to Australian businesses.
Enough waste to fill 10 CWMs
Australians waste around 7.6 million tonnes of food every year, according to industry research. This represents 312 kg per person at an estimated cost of approximately $2,500 per household each year.
“That 7.6 million tons would fill the CWM to the brim 10 times over,” said Fight Food Waste CEO Dr. Steve Lapidge. The new daily.
“Or he would fill B-double trucks that would stretch from Perth to Sydney, end to end.”
Dr Lapidge said it was not just food that was wasted.
“It’s all the resources, the water, the fertilizer, the fuel to get it to the supermarket,” he said. “And all of that is wasted when we waste food.”
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations says that about a third of the world’s food ends up in landfills, where it breaks down and releases methane, a greenhouse gas 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
Food waste accounts for 8% of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions, which is close to that of global emissions from road transport.
The Australian government is committed to halving food waste by 2030, in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal on food waste.
“[Fight Food Waste]The vision of is an Australia without food waste,” said Dr Lapidge.
“That you can get to absolute zero – I don’t know of any country that has done it, but you can get pretty damn close.”
“An Integral Part”
Dr Lapidge said food waste recycling companies like Bardee are “an integral part of trying to halve food waste by 2030” by turning “unavoidable food waste into something of value”.
Companies like Bardee not only prevent methane emissions by diverting food waste from landfills, but they also replace high-emitting agricultural practices, like cattle ranching and synthetic fertilizers.
Bardee’s Protein and Fertilizer is also rich in nutrients from food waste.
“Our goal, where possible, is to ensure that we keep nutrients in the human food chain,” Dr Lapidge said.
And as long as the nutrients from our food waste go back into animal feed or fertilizer for produce that ends up on supermarket shelves, “then it’s not wasted food.”
But recycling food waste is not easy.
Bardee has spent many years and millions of dollars developing methods and machinery that allow them to process food waste effectively and efficiently.
“Anyone can raise backyard chickens, but not everyone can do what [poultry supplier] Ingham [Enterprises] done,” Bardee CEO Ms. Gardner said when asked why more companies aren’t doing what Bardee does.
Ms Gardner and Mr Arnold started their business in a University of Melbourne car park in 2019, shredding piles of rubbish into insect food using a Bunnings wood chipper.
Today, they have over 30 employees and a billion insects.
The Melbourne company uses Black Soldier Fly larvae, which eat food waste and ‘throw it out’ as nutrient-rich fertilizer.
The larvae themselves are then harvested and boiled to make protein.
“The breeding of these insects is quite complicated,” Arnold said.
“We have a very diverse team of people from all over the world.
“We have entomologists, engineers, and even artists on the team, who have helped design and build many of the truly unique technologies we’ve developed.”
And protecting that technology hasn’t been easy either.
Visitors to Bardee’s Sunshine North facilities are required to sign a nondisclosure agreement, and most plant equipment and practices are protected by intellectual property and trade secrets.
“Protecting intellectual property is an area that I had to learn a lot about and the team had to learn a lot over time,” said Ms. Gardner.
“And we even had instances where people tried to break in to see what we were doing at Bardee, which really surprised us.
“But it shows how interesting and valuable this kind of technology is. And hopefully that’s a good signal that we can progress in the future and get really big.