Food Waste Reduction through Bioconversion

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Food waste bioconversion refers to the use of biological processes, often involving microorganisms, to break down organic waste materials and convert them into useful products such as biofuels, animal feed, fertilizers, and bioplastics. This approach not only reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills but also creates valuable resources from what was once considered disposable.

Impact on climate action

Food Waste Bioconversion under Reducing Food Waste theme advances climate action by converting organic waste into valuable resources like biofuels or fertilizers. By diverting waste from landfills, this innovation reduces methane emissions, conserves resources, and promotes circularity, contributing to emissions reduction and a more sustainable food system.


  • Anaerobic Digestion: This process involves breaking down organic waste in the absence of oxygen, producing biogas (a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide) and digestate (a nutrientrich fertilizer). The biogas can be used to generate electricity or heat, while the digestate can be used as a fertilizer for crops.

  • Insect Farming: Insects, such as black soldier fly larvae, can efficiently consume food waste and convert it into highprotein animal feed and organic fertilizers. Insect farming requires significantly less land, water, and feed compared to traditional livestock production, making it a more sustainable alternative.

  • Fermentation: Microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi, can be used to ferment food waste and produce a variety of valuable products, including biofuels (such as ethanol), organic acids, enzymes, and even food ingredients like mycoprotein (a meat alternative).

  • Composting: This process involves decomposing organic waste using microorganisms in the presence of oxygen, creating compost, a nutrientrich soil amendment that improves soil health and fertility.

TRL : Varies depending on the specific bioconversion technology, ranging from 6-9.

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Advanced Bioreactor Designs: Innovations in bioreactor design are improving the efficiency and scalability of anaerobic digestion and fermentation processes, leading to higher yields and reduced processing time.

  • Genetic Engineering of Microorganisms: Researchers are genetically engineering microorganisms to enhance their ability to break down specific food waste components, improve product yields, and expand the range of valuable products that can be produced.

  • Integrated Biorefineries: These facilities combine multiple bioconversion technologies to create a closedloop system that maximizes resource recovery and minimizes waste generation.

  • Waste Sorting and Pretreatment Technologies: Advanced technologies are being developed to efficiently sort and pretreat food waste, removing contaminants and preparing it for optimal bioconversion.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • AI-Powered Spoilage Prediction
  • Smart Packaging Sensors
  • Blockchain Food Traceability
  • Anaerobic Digestion for Biogas
  • Insect Farming for Waste Valorization
  • Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP)
  • Active Packaging Technologies
  • Edible Coatings for Shelf Life Extension
  • Food Waste Tracking Systems
  • Data Analytics for Waste Reduction
  • Food Recovery Platforms
  • Redistribution Networks
  • Upcycling Food Waste into Biofuels
  • Bioplastics from Food Waste
  • Animal Feed from Food Waste
  • Real-Time Freshness Monitoring
  • Transparent Supply Chains
  • Resource Conservation Technologies
  • Methane Emission Reduction
  • Low-Carbon Food Systems

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  1. Bio Bean:
    • Technology Enhancement: Bio Bean specializes in converting waste coffee grounds into advanced biofuels and biochemicals. Their technology involves collecting used coffee grounds from coffee shops, offices, and factories and processing them into biodiesel, biomass pellets, and biochemicals through a series of proprietary biochemical and thermal processes.
    • Uniqueness: Bio Bean’s unique selling point lies in its ability to turn a widely available waste stream (coffee grounds) into high-value products such as biofuels and biochemicals. By upcycling coffee waste, they not only reduce the environmental impact of coffee consumption but also create sustainable alternatives to traditional fossil fuels and chemicals.
    • End-User Segments: Bio Bean serves various end-user segments, including coffee shops, roasteries, office buildings, and municipalities looking to manage their organic waste more sustainably. Additionally, their biofuels and biochemicals can be used in transportation, energy generation, and chemical manufacturing industries, contributing to a more circular and sustainable economy.
  2. Entocycle:
    • Technology Enhancement: Entocycle specializes in using black soldier fly larvae to bioconvert organic waste into high-protein insect meal for animal feed. Their technology involves feeding organic waste, such as food scraps and agricultural byproducts, to black soldier fly larvae, which then convert the waste into nutrient-rich insect meal through natural bioconversion processes.
    • Uniqueness: Entocycle’s unique selling point lies in its innovative approach to sustainable food production and waste management. By harnessing the natural abilities of black soldier fly larvae, they can efficiently convert organic waste into high-protein insect meal, which can replace traditional feed ingredients like soy and fishmeal in animal diets. This not only reduces the environmental impact of animal agriculture but also addresses the growing demand for sustainable protein sources.
    • End-User Segments: Entocycle serves a wide range of end-user segments within the animal agriculture industry, including livestock farms, aquaculture operations, and pet food manufacturers. Their insect meal can be used as a sustainable and nutritious feed ingredient for poultry, pigs, fish, and other animals, offering a viable alternative to conventional feed sources.
  3. ReGrained:
    • Technology Enhancement: ReGrained specializes in repurposing spent grain from the beer brewing process into nutritious and sustainable food products. Their technology involves collecting spent grain from breweries and processing it into flour and other ingredients through drying, milling, and other proprietary processes. These ingredients are then used to make a variety of food products, including snack bars, crackers, and baking mixes.
    • Uniqueness: ReGrained’s unique selling point lies in its ability to transform a byproduct of the beer brewing process into delicious and nutritious food products. By upcycling spent grain, they not only reduce waste in the brewing industry but also create sustainable alternatives to conventional grain-based ingredients. Their products are not only environmentally friendly but also packed with fiber, protein, and other nutrients.
    • End-User Segments: ReGrained targets health-conscious consumers, environmentally conscious shoppers, and craft beer enthusiasts who are looking for sustainable and innovative food products. Their products can be found in grocery stores, specialty food stores, and online retailers, catering to a growing market of consumers seeking nutritious and eco-friendly alternatives to traditional snacks and baked goods.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  1. Wageningen University & Research:
    • Research Focus: Wageningen University & Research is a leader in the field of Food Waste Bioconversion, focusing on developing novel biotechnological processes and microbial platforms for converting organic waste streams into high-value products, such as biofuels, bioplastics, and biochemicals.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves the identification and optimization of microbial consortia, enzymes, and fermentation conditions for efficient degradation and conversion of diverse food waste substrates. They also explore the integration of biorefinery concepts, metabolic engineering strategies, and process intensification techniques to maximize resource recovery and minimize environmental impact.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in organic waste management, circular economy initiatives, and sustainable bioproduct manufacturing. By harnessing biotechnological solutions for Food Waste Bioconversion, Wageningen’s research contributes to reducing landfill waste, mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, and promoting the valorization of organic residues into valuable commodities.
  2. Cornell University:
    • Research Focus: Cornell University conducts pioneering research on Food Waste Bioconversion, leveraging its expertise in microbiology, biochemistry, and environmental engineering to develop innovative strategies for converting food waste into renewable energy and value-added products.
    • Uniqueness: Their research encompasses the development of anaerobic digestion, microbial fermentation, and enzymatic hydrolysis processes for the bioconversion of food waste into biogas, biofertilizers, and specialty chemicals. They also investigate the use of advanced characterization techniques, process modeling, and life cycle analysis to optimize resource recovery and energy efficiency in food waste valorization systems.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work find applications in municipal waste treatment facilities, food processing industries, and agricultural biogas plants, enabling the diversion of organic waste from landfills and the generation of renewable energy and sustainable products. By advancing Food Waste Bioconversion technologies, Cornell’s research supports the transition to a circular economy and the reduction of environmental pollution associated with food waste disposal.
  3. University of California, Davis:
    • Research Focus: University of California, Davis is engaged in innovative research on Food Waste Bioconversion, focusing on developing scalable and cost-effective biorefinery technologies for converting food waste into bioenergy, bioproducts, and value-added chemicals.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves the optimization of thermochemical, biochemical, and microbial conversion pathways for valorizing different fractions of food waste, including carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins. They also explore the integration of waste-to-energy systems with wastewater treatment, agricultural residues utilization, and nutrient recovery processes to enhance resource efficiency and environmental sustainability.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in urban waste management, decentralized bioenergy production, and sustainable agriculture, offering opportunities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, enhancing soil fertility, and creating economic value from food waste streams. By developing Food Waste Bioconversion technologies, UC Davis’s research supports the circular economy goals, waste reduction targets, and climate change mitigation efforts at local and global scales.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Food waste bioconversion technologies are being commercially implemented by a growing number of companies and organizations, including:

  • Waste management companies: Incorporating anaerobic digestion and composting facilities into their operations to process food waste and generate renewable energy and fertilizers.

  • Food producers and retailers: Partnering with bioconversion companies to manage their food waste and create valuable products from their surplus or unsold inventory.

  • Livestock farmers: Utilizing insectbased animal feed as a sustainable and costeffective alternative to traditional feed ingredients.