GrubTubs: Table to Farm
GrubTubs takes food waste (in this case, canned foods) and turn it into healthy animal feed using an insect called Black Soldier Fly Larva.
Describe your idea
GrubTubs can take food waste in any form - even canned foods - and upcycle it into sustainable, healthy animal feed. By feeding the waste to an insect called Black Soldier Fly Larva (BSFL), we keep valuable nutrients in the local foodshed, rather than composting them or even worse - sending them to the landfill.
First, we cut the cans in an automated system. Then, we simply drop them cut cans in to our BSFL system - the Larvae will only eat organic matter, leaving the cans picked clean. Using a simple screen, we can lift the clean cans out of the system and send them to a recycling facility.
Meanwhile, the larvae have grown large on the rich food. Using our patented harvesting system, collecting the grubs is a nearly labor-less task. Once harvested, the larvae are an ideal feed for chickens, fish, and hogs. They are extremely high in protein, good fats, micronutrients, and calories. In fact, given the opportunity, chickens will seek out insects just like these in the wild - it's their favorite snack!
The eggs that these chickens produce have stronger shells, richer yolks, and best of all, they are "made" from all-local materials. Michael Pollan himself is on the record saying that while he has no interest in eating bugs, eggs from insect-raised chickens are the most delicious he's ever had.
Perhaps even more importantly, this process can reduce feed costs for farmers by up to half of their feed bill. Currently, small chicken farmers in particular struggle with the high price of quality feed. By installing a BSFL system on their farm, the farmer gains autonomy of production and replaces the high monetary cost of feed with a small labor investment.
The canned foods available in this challenge are a particularly ideal input for our system: the food cannot be eaten by humans (the best use scenario), but feeding it to animals is the next best and next highest-value use. Composting rarely makes economic sense, especially when there is the possibility for a higher-value use. Furthermore, this system shines as a material-separator: with almost zero human labor, it cleanly and efficiently separates the aluminum cans from the food waste. The cans cannot be recycled otherwise, and trying to wash them out by hand would be cost-prohibitive. In essence, all materials remain in the local economy: aluminum gets sent back to the recycler, proteins and fats stay as protein and fats, and as a result the community gets tasty eggs and farmers get bigger profits.
Describe your knowledge, skills and abilities
Robert Olivier has nearly twenty years of professional experience in the recycling industry and working with Black Solider Fly Larva. He holds patents on the proprietary systems for breeding and rearing the insects, and is one of the foremost experts in their behavior and biology.
Quinault Childs has worked with startups in the food & ag space and is adept in operations and logistics - something that this business plan will rely heavily upon. He also holds a Masters of Sustainable Food Business and has experience in business strategy and analysis.
Robert Nathan Allen is a local community leader, and runs the Austin-based nonprofit Little Herds, which does education, outreach, and community involvement in the domain of edible insects. He is deeply entrenched in the local community of food producers, restaurants, and sustainability organizations.
Describe how your idea will utilize materials and create jobs
Aside from the materials on offer in the Reverse Pitch competition, GrubTubs is well-poised to take advantage of the great need in Austin to deal with food waste. We run a waste pick up service that can take food waste from restaurants, food trucks, groceries, etc. Given the upcoming requirements for a food waste diversion plan, we are beginning to capture the market for food waste pickup comprised of thousands of food-permitted businesses in town.
The system is adaptable to diverse materials: we can deal with situations like these canned foods, foods that are normally difficult for haulers to deal with like fish waste, and everyday food waste like fruit rinds and meat scraps from restaurants.
Although the company itself will be hiring more employees as we expand, we will also be empowering small farmers to grow and earn more as they are freed from high feed costs.
Describe the environmental impact
Currently, the vast majority of feed is made from corn and soy - two crops grown in vast monoculture systems by big ag companies. Although most small chicken farmers don't want to support this system, it may be the only economically viable feed for them to use. By offering a solution that lets them break free of the big feed mills, they can divest from supporting environmentally destructive soy and corn operations.
Secondly, while composting is certainly better than landfilling, it does produce methane as a byproduct. Black Solider Fly Larvae do not produce any greenhouse gasses, and in fact their output (aside from the grubs themselves as feed) is a valuable soil amendment called "frass." This frass can help soil much like compost, and it even contains high levels of chitin, which acts as a natural pesticide. So, by diverting food from both the landfill and compost, our system reduces GHGs, produces cheap healthy feed, and leaves the farmer with a great soil amendment as well.
Lastly, keeping nutrients in the local foodshed has a ripple-effect: with more eggs, chicken meat, fish, and hogs produced locally at a lower price (since the feed input cost is much lower, supply can go up and cost of production goes down), the people of Austin can consume a higher percentage of their diet from local foods. And food that is brought in from afar can actually be captured and retained locally by this system!
Describe the product end of life-cycle
Since we provide a service, rather than a product, there is no single end-of-lifecylce. However, the physical systems that we use to rear the BSFL are modular and easy to install, remove, and reinstall. After a few months of running the BSFL system, the farmer can remove it, collect the valuable frass, and then either reinstall the system in the same location or change it if she chooses.
In the case of the aluminum cans, there will be no product left over - the food will be entirely processes by the BSFL, and the cans will be totally cleaned and sent to recycling.