The following statistic may or may not come as a surprise: “consumers, businesses, and farmers spend $218 Billion a year growing, processing, transporting, and disposing 62 million tons of food that never gets eaten.” (ReFED) Dan Morash, CEO of California Safe Soil, a graduate company of THRIVE’s first accelerator cohort, has the technology to mitigate half of this. Today, the CSS technology is diverting uneaten food’s route to the landfill by recycling and returning it to the soil where it stimulates growth and prevents fertilizer runoff.
“We take all of it [food waste], and put it in the soil where it stimulates growth and sequesters carbon that would otherwise be emitted into the environment”. Harvest to Harvest, the company’s flagship product could be considered a modernized version of technology dating back to early Americas, when Native Americans would use fish byproducts to fertilize maize crop. Today, at CSS’ facility, the process occurs by mechanically grinding, heating, and enzymatically digesting food collected from recycling partners, producing an organic amendment containing amino acids, fatty acids and sugars that soil organisms and plants thrive on.
All of this dramatically reduces the tons of food slated for landfills each year by working with recycling partners across the entire food chain. In addition to supermarkets, the company targets growers with off “spec” produce left in the field during harvesting, food processors, institutional players such as stadiums, schools, and hospitals, and hotels. In lieu of the other half which CSS does not have the capability to process- residential- Morash urges composting, anaerobic alternatives.
Once processed, California Safe Soil’s microbially rich organic matter is delivered to growers to use as a crop amendment. While CSS works with 13,000 acres of farmland within California, even greater opportunity lies ahead for the company. Because farmers work predominantly with macronutrients like fertilizer and insecticide inputs, supporting soil health is often overlooked which places a degree of separation between California Safe Soil’s product and its intended users. What Morash explains though, is that Harvest to Harvest is a complimentary product which fortifies the soil, working with the soil to retain water and fertilizer inputs and prevent them from running off through the root zone and into aquifers. What’s more, existing CSS customers have seen their plants manifest more root growth, flowering and fruiting. Ultimately, the CSS product pays for itself by displacing the cost of crop inputs used by growers and yielding more robust harvests.
Sustainable agriculture technology in action
Already CSS has partnered with major players like supermarket retailer Save Mart and the Sacramento Kings Golden 1 Arena, delivering Harvest to Harvest amendment product to 13,000 acres of specialty crop farmland in California. The company is rising to the food waste crisis by returning uneaten food back to the land, thereby sequestering the volumes of greenhouse and toxic gasses that are emitted each year as a result of food’s decay in landfills, while also boosting plant growth and reducing chemical runoff from reaching water supplies. Save Mart alone could supply 90,000 acres, and there is much more that can be done. CSS hopes to accelerate its growth, and play a meaningful role, recycling organic matter and increasing the sustainability of agriculture.