“There is no downside to our technology. It makes so much more sense to treat food waste at source. We wouldn’t have been able to go live and launch our product without the Innovation Voucher Programme from Enterprise Ireland” – Kieran Coffey, CTO, Grian Water Ltd.
Globally more than a third of all food is wasted – affecting people, planet and profit and leveraging emerging technology is one of the most vital ways to innovate to target food waste and fight climate change.
For Clonakilty based Kieran Coffey, this issue has been front of mind for many years. A mechanical engineer, he has always been interested in sustainability and the environment and established Grian Water to innovate around the potential of anaerobic digestion as a technology to generate renewable energy, lessen GHG emissions and recover nutrients as well as playing a role in meeting the climate change targets under the Paris agreement. His company developed MyGug, a micro-scale anaerobic digester for the treatment of food waste that turns organic matter into renewable fuel that can be used in homes and small businesses.
In Ireland, households now produce over 250,000 tonnes of food waste annually which equates to a cost of €700 worth of food being thrown out per house every year. Food waste now contributes to 8% of the world’s GHG emissions and the estimated global cost of this is €1.2 trillion of profit lost every year. This is against a backdrop of about 870 million people in the world going hungry every day.
“Having worked for many years in waste water, anaerobic digestion was always on my mind. I wanted to find a complete food waste treatment system solution and the idea was to design something on a micro-scale that would integrate into domestic and small business settings and that would operate in all weather and climate conditions,” explains Kieran.
With the support of the Enterprise Ireland Innovation Voucher Scheme, Grian Water approached Wisar Lab, based at Letterkenny Institute of Technology. The Lab is a wireless and embedded systems group that provides electrical and electronic solutions for established companies and technology start-ups. The company wanted to develop a low-cost micro-controller solution using wireless connectivity and cloud storage to monitor the digester’s performance over time. They developed a cost-efficient printed circuit board collaboratively and have already installed it in domestic and small business settings for longer term testing and to gather overall performance data. “There has been a great reaction, particularly from food businesses that are interested in sustainability and want to reduce their carbon footprint,” says Kieran.
“People are not aware of the potential energy that they are throwing out with plastics and other types of wastes. Once food waste is mixed you’ve diminished its value. It’s harder to handle. It makes so much more sense to treat it at source whether you are a household or business user.” Grian Water is now working with Wiser Labs on a new Innovation voucher from Enterprise Ireland. They aim to work towards complete sustainability in processes and systems and a complete packaged unit.
Advising other companies to avail of the Enterprise Ireland Innovation Voucher scheme, Kieran says that “the key thing for me was talking to a key figure in Enterprise Ireland. Find out what you want to improve or achieve with your own product or process. Be clear on your own vision of where you want to go.”