BY: KATE SLOAN
In this age of climate change, pollution and food crises, there’s a growing desperation to find working solutions. But a Seattle-based company thinks their new invention “changes everything.”
Impact Bioenergy is a team of designers, engineers and environmentalists looking for ways to reduce food waste, decrease energy costs and conserve soil resources. Their new design, HORSE (High-solids Organic-waste Recycling System with Electrical Output), turns table scraps into liquid fertilizer and energy in the form of natural gas.
Impact Bioenergy believes that HORSE “changes everything” in consideration of issues with climate change, pollution, and food crises.
The HORSE is a portable system, roughly the size of a car. It can take in food waste, oil, edible liquids, small animal bones, paper products, lawn clippings, human waste and various other types of organic waste. According to a Waste 360 report, the system blends and homogenizes the inputted materials for three to four days. The resulting liquid is moved to a sealed container that uses anaerobic digestion to turn it into fertilizer and fuel. This process is meant to mimic the natural digestion process of a ruminant animal like a cow.
Inside the machine, blades mix and homogenize the organic waste, turning it into a liquid to mimic natural digestion processes.
A fact sheet on the company’s website says the HORSE can take in up to 135 pounds of organic matter per day and can produce a maximum of 360,000 BTUs of energy daily. This means that in a year the HORSE can, for example, run a refrigerator for over 68,000 hours or power a water heater for 5,700 hot showers. With the help of the HORSE, even just one pound of table scraps is enough to power an electric vehicle for an hour.
Impact Bioenergy designed the unit to be used by self-sustaining off-grid groups of 50 people or fewer, such as on a farm or commune. However, any community, business or institution that wants to reduce its ecological footprint can use the machine.
The HORSE’s construction was funded via a Kickstarter campaign in late 2015. It collected over $36,000 from 334 backers, meeting its funding goals and enabling the company to build a HORSE. Backer rewards included one gallon of liquid fertilizer produced by the machine, T-shirts featuring the company logo, exclusive tours of environmentally-friendly gardens and farms the company partners with, and the option to rent the HORSE for personal use for a few months at a time.
The company’s long-term goal is for every business, institution or small community to have a HORSE of its own, and for each of those groups to grow their own food, using the fuel and fertilizer the machine produces. This would drastically reduce the amount of food wasted in the world and would render food trucking obsolete, cutting down carbon emissions and creating what Impact Bioenergy calls a “sustainable energy revolution.”