A way to upcycle food waste
Bertha Jimenez, Ashwin Gopi, Jessica Aguirre, Remington Tonar, Martina Balestra, Lev Tatz, and Nilufer Polat
When the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) called for marketable tech tools to help solve pressing civic problems in 2015, Bertha Jimenez, then a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Technology Management and Innovation, helped develop RISE (Real-time Industrial Symbiosis Exchange) — an online marketplace for industrial by-products.
Jimenez and her teammates knew that after breweries processed grain to make beer, they were left with a semisolid substance that could have potential uses in commercial bakeries. (Spent grain can be milled into a flour surprisingly high in fiber and protein.) As they envisioned it, RISE could prove useful in those and any number of other industries, with wine by-products being used to make cosmetics, for example, or coal by-products purchased for use in glassmaking.
Deciding to do the heavy lifting themselves, they began by arranging with a group of microbreweries in Brooklyn to make regular pick-ups of their spent grain, which would otherwise end up in landfills, and then carted it to Jimenez’s apartment, where they had set up a makeshift production facility. The enterprise won an NYU “Green Grant” and a 2017 Food+City Challenge Prize, among other such laurels, and they are now working to scale up at their own production plant, where they will be able to process tons of spent grain a week.