Tuesday, June 18, 2024

‘Maggot robots’ to help Woolies work towards zero food waste

Sustainability-focused start-up Goterra is set to launch a new food waste management system, using insects, in Sydney. Woolworths will be its foundation customer.

Located in Wetherill Park, the state-of-the-art facility harnesses “groundbreaking” technology to tackle the mounting issue of food waste.

The system uses insects called black soldier fly larvae to break down food waste onsite rapidly, at a large scale. Housed in high-tech, shipping container-sized units dubbed ‘maggot robots,’ the larvae can devour “vast amounts” of food waste, reducing it by a claimed 95% in just 24 hours.

This process is said to generate “valuable” organic fertilizer and “nutrient-dense” protein meal as by-products, supporting a circular economy.

Woolworths will send food waste from its stores across the Sydney region, which isn’t appropriate for hunger relief charities, to the site. The retailer has been utilising Goterra’s technology in a small-scale trial across its ACT stores since 2020.

Goterra CEO Olympia Yarger says this decentralised model is transformative for Sydney, which produces over 600,000 tonnes of food waste annually, mostly trucked to landfills outside the metro area.

“For too long, food waste has languished in toxic landfills hundreds of kilometres from our cities. Our partnership with forward-thinking partners like Woolworths is helping change that,” she says.

Woolworths 360 Managing Director of Sustainable Impact Laurie Kozlovic says the system is a key piece of infrastructure that will enable Woolworths’ ambition to divert all food waste from landfill.

“While each of our stores has a partnership with a hunger relief charity, some of our food waste can’t be eaten and Goterra’s unique technology provides a low-emissions pathway to save it from landfill,” he says.

“We’re pleased to partner with Goterra as its foundation customer, and excited by the future potential of the technology in regional areas where access to composting is limited.”

The site, processing over 100 tonnes every week, will immediately create 12 new jobs for locals to Fairfield City Council.

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