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Table-to-Farm-to-Table: Startup Grows Food for Restaurants With Kitchen Leftovers

Food
Indie Ecology / Instagram

Food, as we know, is a terrible thing to waste. Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption gets lost or wasted every year. But what if we could use food waste to create more food?

That's the elegantly full-circle idea behind Indie Ecology, a West Sussex food waste farm that collects leftovers from some of London's best restaurants and turns it into compost. The nutrient-rich matter is then used to grow high quality produce for the chefs to cook with. Call it table-to-farm-to-table—and again and again.


"I wanted to help chefs understand the true impact they can have on nature and the environment," Igor Vaintraub, who founded Indie Ecology in 2011, touts his website.

According to the Evening Standard, the farm's gourmet compost is made from 80 top restaurants, including Michelin-starred establishments like The Ledbury and La Gavroche.

Vaintraub told the publication, "Other than the bins and some delivery plastic the whole process is plastic free … We recycle seven tonnes per day, seven days each week, and we are a tiny operation. We are trying to do something different. Waste was looked at as something that people take away and forget about, but we wanted to educate chefs especially as they generate a lot of this commodity [waste]."

The farm uses a Japanese anaerobic method called "bokashi," which uses a cocktail of fermented molasses and naturally occurring microorganisms to turn food scraps into compost. The advantage of this process is that there is little smell and it does not attract pests. Unlike traditional composting, this method can handle meat, fish and dairy.

Vaintraub told EcoWatch got the idea for his business four years ago from Vandra Thorburn of Brooklyn-based Vokashi, which counts a number of sustainable businesses, caterers and even actress Lucy Liu as clients.

"At first I think chefs were a bit dubious about coming on board with us, as there was a cost involved and it was not something they had ever done before," Tom Morphew, an Indie Ecology business partner, told the Evening Standard. "But once they started the produce, it is 100 times better than what they buy from wholesalers that is force-grown in greenhouses."

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