Harvest Power

For realizing the awesome might of food waste.

The United States throws out $180 billion worth of food every year. Much of that ends up in landfills, creating the greenhouse gas methane. Harvest Power turns it into something else: power. It takes food waste, as well as leaves and yard trimmings, and, through anaerobic digestion and composting, transforms it into renewable energy and natural fertilizer.

Founded in 2008, the company has nearly 40 plants across North America and produces 65,000 megawatt hours of power and 29 million bags of soil, mulch, and fertilizer, which it sells to farmers and landscapers. It adds up: Revenue last year was $130 million. In a suburb of Vancouver, the site of Harvest Power's largest digester, the company supplies power to 900 homes. The ultimate goal is turning biogas into compressed natural gas to power trucks and other vehicles.

The trash-to-power model already works well in Germany and Spain. Harvest Power has plenty of believers that it'll work on a broader scale here in the United States. In 2012, the company raised an impressive $110 million from Kleiner Perkins and Al Gore’s Generation Investment Management, among others. Another investor is Waste Management, the country's biggest trash processor, which has vowed to cease using landfills. Harvest Power, it believes, can help.

[Photo by Christopher Boffoli]