Wiserg is making a big bet on a big problem for the U.S. — food waste.
The startup has built a device that turns food scraps into a nutrient-rich liquid that can then be re-used as fertilizer, and Wednesday it told GeekWire that it has raised $19.2 million to fund that work. The new money brings the company’s total capital raised to $56 million.
The round was led by the Laird Norton Company, a Wiserg spokesperson said. Second Avenue Partners and other existing investors also took part. The spokesperson said the new funds will help the company expand its business to the Eastern U.S. and South and Central America, as well as building a new plant in Southern California.
Wiserg is also under new leadership: Longtime investor and advisor Brian Valentine, known for his pivotal roles at companies including Amazon and Microsoft, has quietly taken the helm as the startup’s CEO.
Valentine, who was one of the first investors in Wiserg, told GeekWire that he formally stepped into the role in July of 2016. At that point, he said, the company was going from an “interesting science project” to a real startup that could have a huge impact on how the U.S. handles its extreme amount of food waste.
The USDA estimates that 30 to 40 percent of food in the U.S. is wasted.
“There’s so much food waste out there that we’ve got to do something better with it,” Valentine said. “We’ve got to be better stewards of our planet, and I was attracted to helping leave this place a little better than I found it.”
Valentine worked at Microsoft for nearly 20 years, helping launch some of the company’s most recognizable operating systems, including Windows 2000, XP and Vista. He then joined Amazon by invitation from Jeff Bezos, where he served as the VP in charge of the company’s e-commerce platform for more than seven years.
Valentine said that, after going into semi-retirement, he was eager to find a new project to work on. Wiserg was at a turning point and the timing couldn’t have been better.
The company has partnered with grocery stores to recycle food waste using its device, including a deal with Whole Foods, the upscale grocery retailer which was acquired by Amazon last year for $13.7 billion. Wiserg then sells the nutrient-rich liquid the machine makes back to the agricultural sector as a fertilizer.