Environment

EcoSafe Digester: Big data, less waste

The Eco-Safe Digester is a self-contained stainless steel unit that breaks down food waste into grey water
The Eco-Safe Digester is a self-contained stainless steel unit that breaks down food waste into grey water
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The Eco-Safe Digester is a self-contained stainless steel unit that breaks down food waste
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The Eco-Safe Digester is a self-contained stainless steel unit that breaks down food waste
Each Eco-Safe Digester unit is linked to the cloud to allow analysis of usage patterns
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Each Eco-Safe Digester unit is linked to the cloud to allow analysis of usage patterns
The Eco-Safe Digester is a self-contained stainless steel unit that breaks down food waste into grey water
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The Eco-Safe Digester is a self-contained stainless steel unit that breaks down food waste into grey water

The world produces a hell of a lot of waste and a great part of it is food waste. According to the United Nations Environment Program, around one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year is either lost or wasted. In an effort to deal with all this waste in a green way, New York-based BioHitech has developed a device that breaks food waste down into grey water and connects to a cloud system to allow the company to tap the power of big data to monitor and improve the performance of the units.

The device is called the Eco-Safe Digester, an aerobic unit designed for on-site installation to help clients reduce how much of their food waste ends up in a landfill. BioHiTech compares its digester to a "mechanical stomach," where an ideal combination of heat, moisture and oxygen enables microorganisms to thrive and break down the waste.

With the exception of things such as large bones, mussel and clam shells, and pineapple tops, all the food waste is broken down and discharged to the drain as grey water with traces of undigested solids. This is then transported through standard sewer lines, eliminating the need for smelly compactors and transportation of waste to landfills or compost facilities. The largest of BioHitech's machines consumes up to 300 gal (1,135 L) of fresh water and discharges 400 to 500 gal (1,514 to 1,893 L) of effluent when operating over a 24 hour period.

The Eco-Safe Digester is a self-contained stainless steel unit that breaks down food waste
The Eco-Safe Digester is a self-contained stainless steel unit that breaks down food waste

But the Eco Digester is more than just an aerobic digester. It is also a smart system linked to BioHitech’s cloud (Biobrain) that adds intelligence to the mechanical work. The system can identify trends and inefficiencies that lead to waste, allowing customers to understand the historical patterns of food waste and take steps to avoid it in the first place.

The analytical tool provides technicians with information about digestion rates, utility usage, hours of operation, maintenance issues and other features of the digester’s work. If problems arise, such as interruption of digestion or any other anomalies, a real time notification system allows BioHitech to respond quickly. It can remotely control any unit through its cloud and make performance adjustments from anywhere in the world at any time.

To improve the system, BioHitech is also looking to apply machine learning principles in its cloud to study those patterns, usage types, trends and outliers. Besides giving support staff more information about clients' needs and issues, the output of machine learning algorithms will be useful as a feedback mechanism to perfect the configuration of the digesters. This way, they can be fine-tuned for each customer’s usage patterns.

For customers, besides giving them a green solution to waste, the digester can help them back their claims on compliance with waste disposal regulations. BioHitech also pitches it as a method for organizations to publicize their environmental efforts and boost a company’s green credentials.

To further explore this aspect of the digester, BioHitech has plans for a real time clock to be placed at digester sites to display diversion rates. The clock will be used to promote sustainability efforts and even to cross promote and monetize advertisements from organic vendors, companies, and other interested parties. The idea is to elevate the Eco Digester from a back of the house piece of waste equipment to a consumer facing marketing tool.

Source: BioHitech

3 comments
Ross Cowie
So instead of making compost that has some value, this expensive machine takes food waste and turns it into dirty water, with no value, so it can be sent downstream to a water treatment plant to deal with it? Am I missing something here? What benefits come from using this system?
VirtualGathis
@Ross Cowie: I agree. The only value this thing presents is that it eliminates the solid waste stream to the landfill. If they turned the primary process into an anaerobic digester they could collect the methane and use that to run generators, heat water, etc. see http://www.gizmag.com/sainsburys-food-waste-anaerobic-digester/33084/ as an example of this. Then take what comes out of the primary digester and compost it as you say then sell the compost for farm and garden use, or use it to grow algae that you feed to Tilapia to farm fish. The digester output is usually broken down enough that it can be used for fertilizer with little extra processing. It is a process some cattle and dairy farms are using to clean up the waste stream while generating their own power. I've seen dairy farms that use no grid power or grid gas due to their onside anaerobic digester "tanks". Not to mention most of the "food waste" is actually only waste because they are too lazy to do anything with it. Sell it to aquaculture farms as fish food and create a fresh supply of both veggies and fish. Tilapia will eat vegetable peelings and scraps as well as meat scraps. Some farms also use a side tank seeded with compost to generate algae that the Tilapia filter out with their gills.
cwolf88
Food waste can be either composted or fed to animals. Ideally major waste producers (whether supermarkets or food processors) could work with local farmers to take the waste which can be tilled into the soil or fed to chickens, cows, etc. The added benefit would be reducing their garbage bills.
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