Harvest uses a platform of technologies - including advanced composting, anaerobic digestion, and material recovery - to harness the full carbon, energy and nutrient value from discarded organic materials.

Harvesting Energy from Organic Materials

Paul Sellew | Harvest Power

Can you give us an overview of Harvest Power?

Harvest enables communities to harness the full potential of organic materials by producing low-cost renewable energy and high-value soil products. We are transforming the way North America manages its organic materials by building stronger systems organics recycling, renewable energy, and soil revitalization. We own and operate facilities in British Columbia, Ontario, California, and throughout the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Mid-West states.

Harvest’s management team, which has deep experience in composting, renewable energy, supply chain management, engineering, law, and finance, has put the company on a steep upward trajectory since its founding in 2008. We have grown rapidly and stand to remain one of the fastest growing companies in clean technology.


You are turning organic materials into energy and something called “Harvest Gold.” What technologies make that possible?

Harvest uses a platform of technologies – including advanced composting, anaerobic digestion, and material recovery – to harness the full carbon, energy and nutrient value from discarded organic materials.


What are the advantages of Harvest’s technologies?

Our technology platform can turn what is currently an environmental challenge – organic waste – into a valued resource, all at a cost lower than disposing it in a landfill. Take anaerobic digestion: Harvest diverts organic materials from landfills and processes it in an environmentally friendly manner to create two valuable end products: biogas and nutrient-rich soil amendments.


You mentioned biogas – what is it and why is it promising?

Biogas is a renewable natural gas. Imagine discovering an enormous new oil or natural gas field that we can tap into with our own bare hands. This is the potential of biogas created using Harvest’s technologies. Biogas is a mixture of methane, carbon dioxide, and trace amounts of other gases. It can be used to fuel an engine generator for creating renewable electricity and heat, upgraded for injection into a natural gas pipeline, or compressed into vehicle fuel (CNG). Best of all, unlike any oil or natural gas field, biogas is sustainable. All it takes is for consumers to separate out banana peels and pizza crusts.


How is Harvest contributing to the national clean tech landscape?

Harvest contributes to the clean tech landscape on many fronts: we divert valuable nutrients from landfills and recycle them back into the community, we produce renewable energy, and we return top quality soil products back to farms and gardens. Harvest has been recognized for our potential positive impact by both investors – we raised $58 million in our Series B financing round this year – and by organizations. We have also won a few awards: we were named to the Cleantech 100 (Top Global Cleantech companies), designated "Emerging Company of the Year" by the New England Clean Energy Council, received an SBANE 2011 New England Innovation Award, and won the AlwaysOn GoingGreen Global 2011 award.


What portion of the total energy load could we expect to generate with organic waste under full production in the near future (say 10 years out)?

It depends on what organic wastes you capture and which energy you measure.  If we diverted all organic waste in the US – which the EPA estimates at 136 million tons per year – and put it through anaerobic digestion, you could produce enough biogas to power millions of homes. However, there’s additional energy savings: first, you save fossil fuels associated with transporting heavy organic waste to distant landfills; second, by adding compost and soil amendments to farms and gardens you reduce the need for irrigation thus reducing the energy demands associated with pumping water. When you consider that 13% of US energy consumption stems from watering and agriculture (NY Times), the energy savings are tremendous.


Why should Americans care about putting organic materials to their highest and best use?

In 2009 the United States sent enough food, yard and wood waste to landfills and incinerators to fill a football stadium more than 50 times. Concurrently, increases in fuel costs and space constraints make landfilling more and more expensive. Harvest’s technology platform and approach offers a clear solution to these interlocking challenges:

  • Reducing landfilling
  • Meeting recycling goals
  • Providing alternatives to fossil fuels
  • Producing high-quality, nutrient-rich compost, soil, and organic fertilizers
  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions associated with disposal


What does the future hold for the organics management and clean tech industries? 

Harvest and the organic management industry as a whole stand to grow exponentially as North America catches on to this new path for organic waste. We plan to bring the organic model we have pioneered to communities throughout the continent and leverage our capital to expand this organics operating system, showcasing Harvest’s suite of technologies and principles. Our goal is to redefine North America’s relationship with organic materials in order to put them to their highest and best use.


Paul Sellew Bio

Paul Sellew is CEO of Harvest Power Canada Ltd. and of Harvest Power, Inc. Paul has been a leader in the organics industry for more than 25 years. In 1982 he founded Earthgro, Inc., which grew to be the second largest producer of compost-based lawn and garden products in North America. Paul has also been a senior executive with Synagro, Inc., helping to build it into the leading organics residuals management business in the U.S. He has also founded and led International Process Systems, Inc. (composting technology provider), Allgro, Inc. (a bio-solids compost marketing firm), Environmental Credit Corp. (carbon credit creation and trading), and Backyard Farms (hydroponic greenhouse tomato producer). Paul graduated from the Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag

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