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Startup uses technology to turn food waste into animal feed

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A Connecticut-based company is building a high-tech facility to turn commercial food waste into meal for animal feed.

Food waste truly is the animal feed of the future for a Connecticut-based startup Luminous flow.

The two-year-old company has built a high-tech processing facility that uses a series of sensors and computer algorithms to process various combinations of commercial food processing waste into a uniform meal for inclusion in animal feed. And it’s not just a beneficial, environmentally friendly food ingredient. According to Jonathon Fife, co-founder and CEO of Bright Feeds, the company’s first group of customers have so far found waste-based flours to be on the order of 20% cheaper than conventional feed ingredients like corn and soy.

The company opened its state-of-the-art 450-ton processing facility about seven months ago and started with just one customer, Fife said. Since then, the company has quickly acquired new customers as word of its product – and its ability to use computer algorithms to tailor meal scraps to specific nutritional profiles – has spread.

“We have sensors that measure protein, fiber, fat, ash and carbohydrates. … We record all the data from these sensors as the food flows through our plant and we have algorithms to mix the food waste to create a cohesive food,” Fife said. “Several different feed mills asked for more or less a certain nutritional factor, so we were able to meet that with our technology.

Bright Feeds started like many similar startups: Fife, who previously worked at an investment firm in New York, became interested alongside a few colleagues in solving the problem of food waste. They had heard of other companies that wanted to turn food waste into animal feed, but most of those companies had difficulty creating a consistent food product from food waste, Fife said. In many cases, they tried to solve the consistency problem by limiting incoming waste streams, but this was not effective.

Bright Feeds approached the problem from a different angle. Instead of trying to control the nutritional profile of the food by controlling the waste stream, they would assemble a team of top engineers to design a factory that could blend various waste streams into a cohesive flour product.

That’s not to say there isn’t room in the market for other waste-to-energy solutions, such as insect farming or fermentation, Fife said. Food waste remains a major global problem and, despite multiple efforts to reduce food waste, the majority still ends up in landfills. And as more successful startups enter the field, Fife said, they will help develop the supply chain infrastructure needed to help the industry achieve scale.

And Bright Feeds is looking to expand. Depending on the number of customers in its portfolio, Fife said, the company is already looking for locations to build a second processing plant. Location is a critical factor: They should be located near sources of commercial food waste and possible pet food factories that may purchase the waste meals. The northeastern United States is particularly attractive, he explained, because of that region’s government policies that promote recycling of food waste. But in the long term, he said, the company hopes to see a food waste processing plant turned into animal feed in every state across the country.

“We think this should be in every state, so that’s the goal: to have the technology and the personnel that can scale in areas where there is a real need,” Fife said.

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