According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the biggest item taking up space in Americans’ garbage cans is paper. The second is food. The average person throws away half-a-ton of food every year. Whether it is takeout leftovers, unwanted sandwich crusts or a moldy head of lettuce in the fridge, that is a lot of waste. At Epiphergy, workers are turning unwanted food back into usable products. The Rochester, NY-based company is the brainchild of Graham A. Fennie. Fennie worked in the information technology field for many years, but had a strong interest in energy management. He struck out on his own and started developing technology solutions to help businesses do a better job of conserving energy. One of his clients was a wastewater treatment plant, which got him thinking about ways to put “waste” to better use. Epiphery was the result. The company, founded in 2008, is on a mission is to develop sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels by using unwanted food as its raw material. Product comes from farms, commercial food processors and the region’s food bank, which sometimes receives expired food it cannot give away. Epiphergy also draws some materials from residential curbside composting programs run by partners such as Rochester’s Community Composting. The company (whose name is coined by combining the words “epiphany” and “energy”) has three main product lines. Food that is still edible gets turned into a high-protein feed for cattle, pigs and other livestock. A similar product may be coming soon to a fast-food place near you. Many restaurants add a supplement to their meat to boost nutrition, enhance flavor and decrease costs. Epiphergy is working to get its product (which is described as tasting “something like a zesty hummus”) certified for human consumption as well. The company also generates biofuels. Oils and fats are transformed into biodiesel. Expired cans of beans and veggies, rotten fruit and even flat soda are boiled down and fermented into ethanol. Ethanol has been highly criticized because of the high amount of energy required to produce it and the perception that it is taking food away from hungry people. Since Epiphergy uses trash as its input (instead of corn or sugar), the company has managed to skirt that criticism. In fact, the Green Technology Accelerator Center at the Rochester Institute of Technology described Epiphergy’s product as “carbon negative” because it diverts so much waste from local landfills. A study by the center mentions that “ethanol produced using Epiphergy’s pilot-scale process achieved net greenhouse gas reductions as compared to the production of both corn based ethanol and gasoline.” Everything that cannot be used for animal food or biofuel goes into a line of organic fertilizer. Epiphergy uses a rapid, odor-free process that results in high-quality compost in 30 days or less. Fennie has plans to set up branches of the company in other New England states. The goal is to create at least 40 new jobs and put several more tons of trash to good use in the coming years. For more information on Epiphergy, visit epiphergy.com.
Epiphergy Gives New Life to Old Food
The Rochester, NY-based company turns food waste into usable products like animal feed, nutritional supplements and biofuels.