How did Goterra begin?
Our Founder Olympia has a farming background and she started exploring farming insects to create protein sustainably whilst she was looking for a farm to buy. She realised that if the insects are fed waste that’s not currently in the supply chain, they can be farmed in a way that is both financially and environmentally sustainable.
Olympia undertook some early stage trials and ultimately Goterra emerged as both an insect farming and a waste management enterprise. Insects manage food waste sustainably, reducing the impact of waste management and logistics and producing protein at the same time. The approach contributes to solving two significant challenges of the 21st Century: sustainable waste management and sustainable food production.
Why do you do what you do? What is your mission and vision for the future?
We established Goterra because we believe that climate change is the crisis of our time and we believe that with transformative action we can beat it. We are developing solutions to the problem. We are building infrastructure that supports the transition to a circular economy.
Our vision is that we can contribute to solving the food and sustainability issues of the 21st Century.
Food waste is directly responsible for 8% of global carbon emissions. One third of all food produced is lost or wasted. Demand for food is expected to grow by 50% by 2030 and commercial feed production needs to grow by 70% by 2050 to meet increasing demand for protein, at the same time as radically reducing emissions from agriculture. And all this needs to change against the rapidly changing conditions and more extreme weather events as a result of climate change.
Composting organic materials at home and in large-scale facilities is part of a growing trend in Australia to better manage and re-use organic material. How does Goterra fit into Australia’s composting story?
Our story is an evolution of Australia’s composting story. Rather than using organic material to produce soil, our modular, decentralised, automated waste management units use maggots to consume food waste, often at the location the waste is produced, converting it into sustainable protein and fertiliser.
Managing food waste with insects moves management of food waste further up the waste hierarchy, creating a nutritious, sustainable protein with applications in the human food and animal feed markets. Our approach is different because we convert low grade food waste into high grade, high value protein, which is a much higher application and ensures nutrients are retained in the economy for as long as possible. The process also produces frass (maggot manure), a high value soil conditioner.
As a compost collection partner, Goterra is facilitating the waste collection and commercial composting of food waste and BioPak compostable packaging. What happens after the waste is collected? What does the composting process look like at Goterra?
We have created Modular Infrastructure for biological services (MIBs), autonomous, robotic systems that get insects to do the job of managing waste. It is closed loop infrastructure that turns food waste into high value, low impact protein and soil conditioner using maggots working in tandem with robotics.
MIBs can be located onsite, creating waste infrastructure right at the source of waste creation; or waste can be transported to a central location, similar to other waste management solutions.
The system accepts, processes and consumes the waste. The autonomous systems manage the insects so that optimal food consumption occurs. At the end of a 12 day life cycle the insects (fly larvae) and insect manure are removed and can be further valorised into feed for pets or livestock and soil conditioners respectively. The unit is seeded with new larvae and the process begins again.
Have you had to adapt your processes to accept BioPak products?
No. Our systems macerates the food waste before feeding to the insects. The BioPak products are macerated with the waste and the insects eat BioPak products as they do other waste.
How much compost do you produce in a year?
We process around 1,000 tonnes of waste per year. This produces around 200 tonnes of maggots (live weight) and 250 tonnes of frass.
Do you have to maintain any standards or certifications for the compost?
As our frass is sent for further composting, there is no need for us to achieve standards or certifications for our frass.
At the end of the process, what kinds of soil are produced, and where do they end up?
Our frass has an NPK of 3:2:4. It is currently sent to small organic and regenerative farmers in NSW.
Our insect protein is used in pet food production, animal feed and aquaculture.
Who are your major customers?
We receive waste from a range of organisations including McDonald’s, Woolworths, Queanbeyan Palerang Council, Queanbeyan Hospital and several state and federal government offices.
As we produce a small volume of outputs our customers that purchase our insect protein and our frass are typically small scale operators and much of the material is used in trials. Our insect protein is used in pet food, animal feed and aquaculture.
What are some of the challenges with composting?
Our biggest challenge in processing food waste is contamination.
How do you manage the risk of contamination to organic waste? I.e. non-compostable waste making its way into the waste collection bin.
We use three approaches to ensuring that contamination is not moved through the supply chain.
What is the best way for people to advocate for commercial composting in their city?
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