Wiserg, a Redmond startup that’s looking to convert food waste into organic fertilizer, just picked up $11 million in fresh funding from Second Avenue Partners, former Microsoft and Amazon.com executive Brian Valentine and others. GeekWire — which selected Wiserg as one of “The Seattle 10” startup companies this past December — previously reported on about $7 million of the series B round.
The new cash will be used to help scale the manufacturing of the Wiserg Harvester food waste system, a device that breaks down food scraps at grocery stores into a nutrient-rich liquid.
The device is now in use at eight grocery stores throughout the Pacific Northwest — including PCC, Whole Foods and Red Apple — and is currently is in pilot tests at Costco stores in the Seattle area. Co-founder and CEO Larry LeSueur said they have pre-orders for about 20 devices, and are currently in discussions with some large grocery chains.
“This will give us the finances we need to start accelerating the company,” said LeSueur, a former Microsoft manager.
He said they plan to start rolling out three to five Harvesters a month, with total capacity of producing about 40 per week through local manufacturing partners.
Since moving manufacturing to the U.S., LeSueur said that they’ve been able to maximize the efficiency of the device, boosting the loading capacity and grinding capacity by two factors.
He said it would take about five million pounds of food to create a million gallons of fertilizer.
The fertilizer being produced by Wiserg is of high quality because it is derived from all organic materials, with LeSueur saying that demand is growing among large agricultural operations. The idea is to target the natural fertilizer to specific non-grain crops, from lettuce to potatoes to tomatoes.
The company is already selling the fertilizer to organic food growers, with LeSueur saying it is paying off in terms of increasing yield rates of certain crops. That benefits the farmer, but also is a story that local grocers like to tell shoppers.
“We think today with the local movement and the focus on consumers in knowing where their food comes from, this is just another story that a grocer or retailer can tell their consumer base,” he said.
As a result of the financing, Pete Higgins of Second Avenue Partners and Brian Valentine have joined the board. In addition, the company just announced Chris Creighton — the former president of Spicers Paper — as vice president of sales.
“Food waste is a massive problem that is not going away without innovation,” said Valentine in a statement. “Wiserg’s technology captures data that helps retailers understand why food is being thrown out and enables them to reduce unnecessary inventory loss and maximize their bottom line.”
The company employs just under 30 people, with Wiserg just now planning to grow its sales operation. Sales could get a boost since Wiserg was just named by Fast Company magazine as one of the “The World’s Top-10 Most Innovative Companies of 2015 in Food.”