Kamine Development Corporation’s agriculture division (KDC Ag) has developed a technology with California Safe Soil that converts more than 30 tons of fresh food waste into fertilizer and animal feed in just three hours. The technology is designed to mimic the human digestive system and can process all types of fresh food waste, including meat, fruits, and vegetables. KDC Ag’s goal is to repurpose this food into a consistent and pathogen-free product to feed farmers’ soils and chickens and pigs the very next day. This technology and process save tons of waste from entering United States’ landfills and only utilizes food that can no longer be donated for human consumption.
Food Tank had the opportunity to talk to Justin Kamine, Co-Founder and Partner of KDC Ag, about the California Safe Soil technology that KDC Ag has the exclusive license of nationwide and what inspires him to develop sustainable agriculture solutions.
Food Tank (FT): What inspired you to focus on food waste and to develop technology to reduce it?
Justin Kamine (JK): As a family, we have been involved with and passionate about creating a more sustainable world for a while. My brother, sister, and I grew up on a horse farm, so the environment and the outdoors has always been in our family. We first got into investing in, owning, and operating companies involved in sustainability in the early 2000s. The background of this interest was built by our father, Hal, who developed over US$3.5 billion of national infrastructure.
Growing up my brother Matt and I saw how infrastructure could make significant and positive change quickly across society and we wanted to use this platform to change the world. Emulating our father, we learned that and desired to create a model of a good profitable business all while doing good.
With our passion for doing good and our fortunate upbringing, we saw the environment and sustainability sector as one that was, at the time, underserved. We felt that we could make an impact in scaling technologies and business that could tackle macro problems.
Most troublesome was our understanding and realization of the macro problems within the agriculture industry. It is insane that 40 percent of the food that we currently grow in the United States is wasted. Additive to that, the United Nations states that there are only 60 years left of nutrients in the ground to continue to grow our crops, 80 percent of global agricultural lands being used for animal feed or grazing, and 90 percent of our oceans being depleted from fish. With these trends and reaching these thresholds, we knew these macro problems needed macro solutions that we could scale quickly!
Specific to food waste, we saw that the food being thrown out still had a tremendous amount of nutrient value. Therefore, our thesis was: if we could capture those nutrients that very same day and immediately turn it into a soil amendment or pelletized animal feed the very next day, we could create healthier, more profitable, and sustainable solutions for supermarkets, farmers, and consumers. Quite literally, feeding the same food that you and I relied upon yesterday into the animals and soil tomorrow.
Additionally, this solution would be a great story and product that solves several macro problems, reducing our reliance to use chemicals, corn, and soy for animal feed and most importantly create a 100 percent closed-loop agriculture system.
FT: Can you describe KDC Ag’s conversion technology and how the process of transforming food waste works?
JK: The KDC Ag’s technology has multiple patents and is specific, but the easiest way to describe it is as follows:
First, we take in a balanced diet of produce and meats, which we collect from supermarkets on a daily basis or every other day. It is important to note that we collect the fresh food waste after any donations can occur, as the maximum usage of food will always be to humans. Once at our facility we do not let the food rot, as we want the food as fresh as possible. We then feed this balanced diet of fresh food leftovers into our technology where we grind up the food, much like one’s teeth, and then send that ground material to a digester where specific food grade enzymes are added in, much like one’s stomach. Within three hours, all of this food is broken down to the molecular level where it is then pasteurized, to eliminate any pathogens. We then blend the product very similar to how wine is blended for consistency.
The result is that the very next day, the farmers can receive a nutrient consistent, pasteurized product that can go directly into the soil or a chicken or pig. Literally feeding the same nutrients that humans were relying upon yesterday, to the animals or soil tomorrow; closing the agriculture cycle.
FT: What are some of the benefits of this new technology?
JK: There are a large variety of macro benefits with the technology and the focus of creating a more circular, waste-free agriculture industry.
First, we are eliminating food that otherwise would be sent to landfills where it would create greenhouse gases. Food waste across the U.S. is a major contributor to the overall emissions that the country produces. We also are utilizing food waste to its maximum benefit to grow more sustainable produce and protein the very next day. Not burning it like waste to energy or anaerobic digesters or letting it rot like composting.
Second, we are repurposing that food to utilize the nutrients at its highest value after feeding humans. By using our technology, within three hours we can start the process that ultimately creates human food in a more sustainable, environmentally progressive way.
Third, the value of the food and the resources that were used to create it are then no longer lost or wasted. We utilize 100 percent of the food waste we bring in to create a finished product that will go to create more food. Therefore, the resources like water, fertilizer, and land that were used to create the food are captured and not lost. At a minimum, we have also shown that with our fertilizer we can increase yield, reduce nitrogen or reliance on chemicals, and reduce water needs for the plants by using our product.
On the animal side, we are eliminating the unnatural diet of the pigs and chickens of corn and soy, which is often paired with supplements or antibiotics. We are replacing that with a balanced, nutrient-rich, complete animal feed with all the desired nutrients. By supplementing the needs for corn and soy to be grown to feed animals those acres can then be used to feed humans around the world.
Additionally, and most important to farmers, is that our feed has shown to increase the health and growth of the animals and ultimately then the meat of the animal by using our product, and it’s all 100 percent sustainably grown.
FT: You’ve spoken before about the need to move toward a Circular Agriculture Society. Could you explain what that is and how your initiative relates to it?
JK: The concept of the Circular Agriculture Society is one where waste is zero. Where the food and all of those resources that were used to grow that food are utilized to their maximum benefit across their entire life cycle.
By recycling the food waste through our process, we are making that last connection that other food waste technologies, for example, anaerobic digesters, can’t. Our process utilizes 100 percent of the food we collect, and we emit no odors, no gasses and no effluent from our process. All we add is some heat, mechanical action, and some food grade enzymes!
Overall, if we want to continue to develop as a society, we need to be more resourceful and conscious of the resources we use and to use them in a more sustainable way. This is across all spectrums of the supply chain. Our fertilizer can increase soil health, sequester carbon into the soil, and reduce chemical-based fertilizers needs on farmers lands, all while increasing crop yields. Our animal feed can create a more sustainable, healthier, and more natural animal. A win across all spectrums of the supply chain as the consumers then get a healthier product and environment.
FT: What advice would you give other organizations thinking about investing in food waste solutions?
JK: When we look at investments in food waste—or frankly any technology dealing with sustainability— we look for a couple of things.
First, we look at the market for what the investment is trying to solve and determine what the size of the market is and the potential impact that the company might have. If we determine that the market is too small, or the technology does not have enough of a differentiator, then we typically are not interested. Our goal is to make a material impact in the world as quickly as possible.
Second, we look at the technology that is involved. Is it scalable and can it be duplicated by any competitor? First to market is both good and bad at times, but if you are in the market, you want to be involved with something that someone else can’t duplicate. We assess whether the technology is on the fringe economically or is priced higher than the conventional component that you are replacing. In order to have an impact in the world, your products need to be economical and if not then that makes it much more difficult to penetrate and get significant growth.
All of these and many more components come into the evaluation and ultimately determine if we get involved.