1. We have exciting news! A fellow OpenIDEATOR, Aitan Mizrahi, has generously agreed to help us with some funds to test our new and improved dehydration process. Over the last two months, we've been collaborating to design an ultra efficient process to convert any food waste into a dry and useable form. After creating an optimized process, we are currently ready to go into testing it, thanks to Aitan and Paul Discoe. All our findings and data will be shared with them as we test some of our assumptions over the next few months. Collaborative prototyping, yay!
2. Another OpenIDEATOR, Jen, really helped us out when she put us in touch with a food management expert at a private company in New York. Not only was he very helpful in giving us advice, he also put in touch with people who are currently researching and funding solutions to dry food. Moreover, he invited us to visit his facility to learn more about food preservation techniques, and to talk more about how we can collaborate in the future. Thanks Jen!
3. Finally, we put representatives of Toast Ale, a shortlisted idea, in touch with one of our partner brewers at Strongrope brewery. This is to help them launch their first brew in America, and we're looking forward to tasting it soon. Hopefully, their collaboration will prove fruitful and maybe we can work together on a joint idea? Who knows what can happen when OpenIDEATORs' worlds collide!
We have a problem!
What can we do?
We're a group of people who incentivize companies to recycle by providing tangible, market-driven economic benefits. Traditionally, waste from industrial processes has gone to landfills, incinerators, or treatment plants, and often has a negative impact on the environment and companies' bottom lines. Annually, US industries spend more than $55 billion in waste disposal costs. Currently, many businesses are trying to find ways to reduce their environmental footprint and create value from their industrial byproducts. Industrial symbiosis can solve both of these issues. In an industrial symbiosis system, waste from one industrial process serves as the raw materials for another, helping to preserve the environment and lower manufacturing costs at the same time.
We are initially targeting the beer industry and food industry in NYC. The main byproduct of the brewing process is called brewers’ spent grain, which is currently disposed at the landfill or in limited cases used as livestock feed. There are more than 40 breweries in NYC, and each of them spends from $1,200 to $4,000 per month in disposal cost. However, there are interesting solutions to the spent grain issue, given that many industries could benefit from its use (such as the food, construction, animal feeding and cosmetics industries). We are particularly focusing our efforts in the food industry (pasta makers, and baked goods), and pet food industry.
Currently, we are developing new applications for the by-product by creating and testing experimental proof of concept products. We work with breweries to collect the spent grain as soon as it goes through the first stage of the brewing process. We then dehydrate it and mill it into fine flour. This flour is then used to create different recipes, which we then test with a target market through an independent distributor. In order to discover the most efficient and effective use of the ingredient, we are working with chefs, bakers and food engineers. Simultaneously, we are developing a more efficient method to process the spent grain into a usable substance, such as extracting protein to use as a food additive.
We are currently working with Six Points and Green Point Breweries, food incubators, bakeries, farmers, and chefs around the New York City area. We are also learning from food waste experts and industrial engineers to help us create a sustainable logistical network.
Our overarching goal is to become the go-to marketplace for many industries selling and buying various materials. We are currently developing a machine-learning algorithm based on the industries and by-products we identified in our research stage. We are also exploring opportunities to provide coordination, logistics, and transportation of materials between buyers and sellers, and experimenting with food industries to find new applications for organic by-products. Within the waste market, there are a number of organizations attempting to accomplish the same mission as RISE, albeit through non-scalable or more manual methods.
How does it work?
In order to better explain the process, we've created three different personas and their user journeys. Thank you OpenIDEO for your awesome toolkit, it made our workshop so much easier! We decided to focus on these three particular personas since they represent the primary types of partners we will be working with. Please check them out, we'll be prototyping parts of them during our next workshop this Thursday, October 6th. There's more info about the event in the comments section.
In order to prototype this part of our idea, we held a workshop at NYU today. We went over the entire idea and then broke it down into the various personas and use journeys. We then decided to tackle one user at a time. We first came up with the most important questions for each step, and they're presented below.
Awareness - How can we convince brewers to adopt our process?Education - What's the best way to teach them the new process?Notification - How might we best design an app integrate our process into the brewers' practice?Pickup - What is the most efficient way to store and transport the spent grain?Feedback - What kind of data should we present to the bakers, and how?Engagement - How might we make it easier for other people to get on board?
After a short discussion, we voted on the most important question and number 4 - regarding pickup won. We decided that an efficient way to store and transport the spent grain is vital to avoid spoilage and ensure that the grain remains fit for human consumption.
We then carried out the same steps for the middleman and decided on the following questions for each step:
Awareness - How can we identify the partners who most fit with our vision?Education - How can we efficiently share the process with them?Notification - How can we alert them in time to help them prepare their facilities for processing?Delivery - How can we make delivery seamless and easy?Processing - How can we keep track of quality data across the steps?Shipping - How can we make shipment and payment easy for our partners?
We then voted on question 2 regarding education being the most important. Not only is it important to decide on the content of the messaging, we also have to design the format.
Finally we performed the same process for the last user - the Baker. The questions were as follows:
Awareness - How can we help bakers discover new ingredients?
Education - What information will be most engaging and useful to bakers?
Experimenting - How can ensure that experiments are well-planned and successful?
Purchasing -How might we make ordering easy and seamless?
Feedback - How might we have an on-going relationship with bakers through data sharing?
Engagement - How might we make it easier for other users to get on board?
Out of these, we voted on the first question being the most important since we had to discover the ways in which bakers learn about new ingredients and integrate them into their recipes.
Business Plan and Future
UPDATE 1 Collaboration with an OpenIDEATOR - August 25th
We had a great meeting with a fellow OpenIDEATOR who we met when he commented on our idea! Aitan works at a Community Organization in Oakland CA where he is the resident researcher and developer. We both shared our backgrounds and current projects, and realized that we faced the same issue - it was difficult to cheaply and effectively dry spent grains and other wet organic matter.
However, we had complementary resources. Since we're at an engineering school, we can work with students to develop a design for a drying solution. However, we lack the funds to build and test one. This is where Aitan could help us, since he has the ability to build a processor, but has no ready design. Thus, we decided to partner on this project and will work together over the next few months. We will be meeting with a few engineers soon and hopefully can simulate a mechanism in the next few months. So excited!
UPDATE 2 Started working with a baker - September 2nd
We met with a baker who was very interested in working with spent grain four. He had previously tried baking with wet spent grain but since he did not have much success, he abandoned the project. However, we learnt about him through a brewer and decided to pay him a visit. We had a great meeting where we shared some of our products and recipes with him.
I think we impressed him because he gave us a tour of his kitchen and then asked us to provide him with some flour. We made a pound of flour for him to test (making bread and cakes), and we're eagerly awaiting the results of his experiment. He also promised to put is in touch with some friends of his who are interested in testing new ingredients, so fingers crossed!
UPDATE 3 Partnering with breweries to design a RISE App - September 14th
We've been working with a small brewery in Brooklyn who we discovered through an online brewing community. Strong Rope Brewery creates handcrafted local and organic ales featuring seasonal offerings that will use the freshest vegetables, fruits, herbs, and spices showcasing the New York State farmers and maltsters they work with to create great tasting beer. Owner Jason Sahler studied sustainable design and development at New York University and is passionate about incorporating sustainable practices into all aspects of the brewery. This core feature of the brewery is its promotion of environmental sustainability by selling organic and local products, reducing waste in the production and retail of the brewery. Whenever possible Strong Rope Brewery purchases energy-efficient equipment, incorporates green construction, and implements operational practices, minimizing environmental impact, with the eventual goal of creating a LEED certified brewery. Strong Rope Brewery works with NYSERDA to improve energy efficiency to the manufacturing process of brewing and fermenting beer.
We met them at their brewery and introduced ourselves after a tour. They were very interested in working with us since they want to become a zero-waste facility. We then proceeded to work out a plan with them. We first analyzed their past brew logs to find patterns of how much they brew, how often they brew, and what kind of grains they use.
We also created a very simple app for them to notify us of when they're about to brew so that we will know when to pick it up. They can also then update it to give us more details about the brew, such as the style, the ingredients, and a short description of the beer. This will allow us to keep track of their production and use that information to streamline our operations. They will start using this app from next month onwards.
We also wrote to the Kings County Brewery Collective, a trio of experienced brewers who have joined forces to bring their shared vision of quality, variety and community to craft beer drinkers throughout New York City and beyond. After several years of honing their brewing skills in tiny apartments, at the American Brewers Guild in Vermont, and professionally at breweries across the city, they all independently came to the same conclusion: to open a new brewery in NYC. Their 15 BBL production brewery + taproom is located in a 5,000 square foot warehouse in Bushwick. We're meeting with them next month to discuss how to collaborate, but they're already fascinated by our idea!
UPDATE 4 Community Kitchen - September 19th
As we've been thinking about how to manufacture our products in an efficient manner, we came across a few community kitchens in an around Brooklyn. We visited one, the Hana kitchen in Brooklyn, and met with Pedro the day manager. Pedro gave us a tour of the facility and demonstrated the various equipment that we could have access to. He also introduced us to a few manufacturers working in the space and pointed out potential opportunities to collaborate with them. We are currently exploring the possibility of renting the kitchen for $250 to have a test run before we purchase a membership. We believe that being a part of this kitchen is helpful to us not only because they would guide us through the legal and regulatory process, but also because we could become part of the community of food manufacturers who we could learn from and work with.
UPDATE 5 Presented RISE at the UN - September 24th
Some exciting personal news. A few months ago, I applied to the Falling Walls Lab, an interdisciplinary forum for aspiring scientists and professionals from around the world. It is part of the annual, internationally renowned, conference for breakthroughs in science and society, the Falling Walls Conference. With the slogan “Share Your Idea!” the Falling Walls Lab offers hundreds emerging talents, entrepreneurs and innovators a stage to pitch their research work, initiatives or business models to their peers and a distinguished jury from academia and business.
Out of more than 300 submissions, ten were selected to present their ideas at the Nations on the 30th of August. I was very pleased to learn that I had been selected to present the idea behind RISE to such a prestigious event. After receiving professional coaching, I made a 3 minute speech to an audience of 300 select guests invited from the field of science and technology. I received a tremendous amount of feedback on RISE, which we will incorporate into our idea going forward. We also made great connections with people from diverse fields, who were very interested in the concept of Industrial Symbiosis underlying our venture. I am meeting soon with some of our new contacts and hopefully some interesting collaborations could come out of it!
UPDATE 6 Pet food Conference in Kansas - October 3rd
We visited Kansas State University to attend their annual Pet Food conference held on September 13-16. We learnt that the pet food market has been growing every year for the last 15 years. This industry is not a luxury market anymore, but it is becoming a commodity market. The premium products are on the rise. Treats are the second largest segment, and customers are willing to spend 16% of their food expenditure on them. Pet food Industry is always looking for novelty ingredients. Hence, using Spent Grains might be a significant opportunity for us to explore. People working on pet food are used to working with by-products. Maybe this is something we should look into because it might have lower entry barrier.
We learnt that only 50% of meat ends on our plates; the rest is used in pet food. Pet food brings higher margins to the meat market. The industry is always looking for innovative ingredients to try for their animal product. Per our conversations with the people in this industry, the spent grain could be useful for the pet treats. 16% of the US Petfood market spending is in treats. Here are the amounts of money that people spent on treats. The most common dog treats are in the $5-9 bracket, followed by the $10-19 bracket.
The last day we went to visit a lab from a professor (Benjamin Katz) that we met on the first day of the conference. This professor also deals with waste stream, and he showed us his lab to helped us figure out what is they best way we can dehydrate our material. The following pictures are of equipment set ups that he recommended us to use to increase the quality of organics byproducts. The next figure is a freeze dryer. This part is critical to maintaining the aromatics of the grains.
Here is the dehydrator that connects to the freeze dryer. Also, when you put a freeze dryer adjustment, you can boost the capacity of the dehydrator.
The following picture shows an electric pump that is used for their system. He recommends this type of pump for our system because it will be more inexpensive and effective for production. He also told us that many university labs are upgrading now, so maybe the Physics labs at NYU can give us one for free.
We also talked about how to control the quality of the byproducts. He advised us to mix the different spent grains, and also look on mixing them with enzymes. Enzymes can help us get rid of the texture problem and homogenize the flavor. Also, he told us, that when we have different batches, to send it to him, and that he would help us with the quality control, and also to see if there are peptides that are affecting our material. He will charge us very little (~ $100) because we are a startup.
Update 7 New Partnerships with Brewers - Oct 8th
Check out some pictures of our latest collaborator, 3s brewing, 15 barrel brewery in Gowanus, Brooklyn.
Update 8 Prototyping workshop - October 9th
A few pictures from our prototyping workshop on Thursday. We've updated our idea to reflect some of the changes.
Please note, that the above flour is what we send to bakers and chefs for them to try out.
UPDATE 9 Working with machines - OCTOBER 11TH
We have some awesome news regarding the technical aspects of our idea! We're currently testing our drying process and we've been making some headway by using latent urban resources. Today, we were offered the use of equipment from a person we met at a waste recycling talk last week and then saw our OpenIDEO post! At the same time, an engineer from Florida contacted us with an offer to test our raw materials on his equipment! We've also been contacted by a couple of Ideators from developing countries who are interested in learning and testing our process. We're really touched by how people read our ideas and reach out to us with advice and help. Also, a few students from NYU have written to us to meet and learn more about RISE. We're only happy to have them on board! Being on OpenIDEO has helped us by allowing our idea to reach out to people around the world!
UPDATE 10 PRESENTED RISE AT Sustainatopia - OCTOBER 13TH
Today, I participated in a panel at a sustainability conference in Boston, where I was selected to talk about RISE. The panel was "Exploring Innovations within waste and recycling" at the annual SUSTAINATOPIA meeting. Founded in 2009, SUSTAINATOPIA is one of the leading events in the world for social, financial and environmental sustainability & impact. Attendees have participated from more than 60 countries. Consisting of both a mega-conference and a broad-ranging Festival, SUSTAINATOPIA brings together the global ecosystem of social, financial and environmental sustainability & impact like no other singular event. Over 1,500 expert speakers have participated during the last 5 years. I got some great feedback on RISE and made connections with some amazing people there.
Update 11 Visit to the Vineyard - October 13th
Please check out some of our pictures from our visit to Rooftop Reds, the world’s first commercially viable urban rooftop vineyard in New York City. We met with Devin and Chris, the innovative winemakers from the finger lakes region. They are currently growing grapes on a rooftop at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and are expecting their first harvest in the fall of 2017. They expect to grow enough to make one barrel of wine. We think it's a great initiative, and we look forward to working with them to develop new applications for their byproducts.
Please check out the preliminary results from our survey below: