written by Charyn Pfeuffer | featured photo by Richard Cranor
Former Microsoft Executives Larry LeSueur and Jose Lugo started WISErg in 2010 to use technology to tackle food waste and food insecurity issues. Reality is that forty percent of food produced in the United States is never eaten. Globally, four billion tons of food are wasted annually—one-third of all food produced. Currently, one out of nine people in the world do not have enough to eat; by 2050, two billion more people will need food.
“The first aha moment came when we realized that we could resolve several key challenges and objectives with a single solution,” said LeSueur, chief executive officer of WISErg. “Initially, we targeted finding an economically feasible way to turn food waste into biogas from food scraps generated by large food waste producers. But quickly it became clear to us that this was not compelling enough, unless we could find a way to address food loss prevention.”
WISErg addresses both global challenges—huge amounts of food waste and food production for future populations. The Redmond, Washington, company looks at landfill-bound food not necessarily as a waste, but a resource for food production. It converts this resource into a nutrient-rich liquid fertilizer—sold as WISErganic—that supports plant and soil health and promotes increased production of a nutrient-dense food.
The task begins with discarded food processed by a mechanical unit placed where food scraps are generated (think grocery stores, restaurants, schools). This processor grinds up the food, extracting water, carbon-based nutrients and minerals, and creates a nutrient-rich broth that is further processed and refined to make fertilizer.
“WISErg is helping sustainability leaders—from growers to grocers—participate in farm to fork efforts to produce healthier food and reduce landfill-bound food waste,” LeSueur said. Its processors operate in Puget Sound locations, 200 West Coast locations, and plans to expand production facilities. The company’s reach is positioned for growth. “We believe WISErganic fertilizer is a vital missing link in closing and energizing the food production-consumption loop,” LeSueur said. “It is making a significant contribution to meeting demand for fresher, safer food, whether organic or conventionally grown.”