2018 Albedo Grant Winner: 3F Waste Recovery Turning Garbage into Gold

There is beauty, or at least beauty product ingredients, in the waste streams of the fishing, farming, and forestry sectors. Ben Wiper's big idea to turn those industries' garbage into gold has won him The Overcast's $12,500 Albedo Grant.

What is the Albedo Grant

The Overcast’s $12,500 Albedo Grant is available for entrepreneurs, organizations, and artists looking to kickstart a dreamjob or launch an operation to new heights.

Its 3 sponsors, Dean MacDonald, John O’Dea, and Phil Keeping’s family, judge the submissions, and grant $12,500, no strings attached, to a winner.

2018 marks the 4th year in a row for the Albedo Grant. Its three previous winners were The Autism Society’s Mobile Gardening Unit, The School Lunch Association’s After School Culinary Program, and start-up funding for Dildo Museum and Brewery.

What's is This Year's Winning Idea?

The 3 Fs referred to in “3F Waste Recovery” are the 3 industries we built our province’s economy on: Fisheries, Forestry, and Farming. And based on this Albedo Grant application, we’ve clearly been failing to fully profit from these industries.

The 3F team, led by President & CEO Ben Wiper, will take the “waste” from these 3 industries, because there is beauty, or at least beauty product ingredients, in the waste streams of these sectors.

Even those of us not lathering up in oils and lotions have heard beauty industry buzzwords like lanolin, tallow, and collagen. It turns out things like fish skins, sheep wool, and moose antlers are all great sources for these things. The cosmetics made from 3F’s ingenuity will be top-shelf, truly local products that wring out and recover:

  • Marine Collagen from Cod and Salmon Skins
  • Marine Oils from Cod and Salmon Skins
  • Lanolin from Sheep Wool
  • Tallow & Glycerin from Animal Bones

Based on this Albedo Grant application, we’ve clearly been failing to fully profit from our fishery, farming, and forestry industries.

The cod and salmon will come from local fish plants, the moose bones will come from meat cutters, hunters, and abattoirs on the Northern Peninsula (including Tuckamore Lodge, Isabella’s Meat Cutting, and Mayflower). The sheep bones and wool will come from Sean Perry’s farm in Daniel’s Harbour and Wilson Reid’s farm in Winterton, to start.

There has been a lot of media, buzz, and even corporate focus lately on reducing our waste, for both economic and environmental reasons, so it’s great to see 3F Waste Recovery getting this year’s Albedo Grant for turning trash into cash. As a bonus, they’ll be doing so in a way that fulfills Newfoundland & Labrador’s ever-increasing desire to buy truly local products.

This endeavour will also create jobs, expand industrial revenue streams, and satisfy growing consumer demand to know and feel good about the quality and the origin of a product’s core ingredients.

To quote their grant application, 3F’s products are “100% sourced in Newfoundland, made by Newfoundlanders, in Newfoundland.” As well, unlike most cosmetics ingredients, 3F’s raw materials purposefully exclude using cow and pig parts so that they may appeal to Muslims and Hindus.

Following Global Leads in Not Wasting Our Waste

3F’s idea may seem novel, but is not exactly new. With regards to fish industry by-products, Iceland, always one step ahead of us with ingenuity, use fish “waste” to create products as varied as pet food and medical bandages, in addition to cosmetics. And there are companies in The States using fish by-product as an alternative to rawhide leather.

It seems odd that as Newfoundlanders, we see fish as food only, save for the lot of us using capelin to keep our veggie beds fertile. Depending on who you ask, our fish industry throws away between 30-80% of every fish we catch. Yet there’s more products than you’d imagine that can be made with what remains of a fish carcass after filleting.

Depending on who you ask, our fish industry throws away between 30-80% of every fish we catch.

As an example, that last beer or glass of wine you had, may have contained isinglass. It’s made from fish swim bladders (which usually end up in the trash), and is a common clarifier for both beer and wine, in brands as big as Guiness. There’s research coming out of MUN looking to turn waste from fish plants into fuel.

As for the forestry industry, its waste is approaching zero in Canada, according to a 2012 report from Forest Products Association of Canada. The report states, “Canadian forestry firms use 96 per cent of each harvested tree – whether it is turned into wood, pulp, paper and other products, or used as fuel.” There is a big movement lately, of rendering quality bio fuel from tree residues, which could simultaneously lessen our reliance on fossil fuels, while building jobs in the green energy sector.

The Farming industry is also sowing the seeds of its waste. One surprising innovation is making use of the animal blood going to waste in slaughter houses; apparently it’s an amazing bio adhesive.

A British, architecture student recently started mixing it with sand to build “blood bricks” which people are building things with. It’s garnered a little blow back, but is generally seen as a positive thing: more of the animal is being used. As a rule, the waste-into-profit innovations in farming stem from agriculture, like making walls of corn husk fiber, or even irrigation systems from old pesticide bottles.

A Perfect Partnership with Marine Institute

3F Waste Recovery is less a grand idea, and more a project in motion. Prior to applying for the grant, Wiper had conducted ample market research, and built up a network of support from lenders, granting bodies, private investors, academic researchers, and governmental departments. Among them are MUN Marine Institute and Grenfell campus. 3F will be using the Albedo Grant to help fund its first 2 research and development projects at these academic institutions.

“Marine Institute and Grenfell Campus will perform R&D and manufacture 3F’s marine collagen and oils, lanolin, tallow, and glycerin in their laboratories and pilot plant,” Wiper says, adding that he’s also partnered with a chemical engineer at MUN, Dr. Kelly Hawboldt, who specializes in industrial production work.

Dr. Hawboldt has a notable background in sustainable, green processing of natural resources. She herself was the subject of a great 2017 article in MUN’s Gazette, titled “Valuable Trash: A Fisherman’s Trash is this Scientist’s Treasure.” Like Wiper, Hawboldt doesn’t like to see waste wasted. As she told the Gazette, “The economy and environment demand that we start to look at fish residue differently. By using 100 per cent of the fish we harvest, and by applying creativity and innovation, we can generate significantly more value that will benefit society.”

Repurposing An Old School in Raleigh

Wiper has also found a degree of interest from the federal and provincial government, as the project’s scope crosses hairs with several of their own priorities. 3F’s products will be manufactured at Marine Institute and Grenfell Campus, and additional processing of the products will take place at 3F’s homebase in Raleigh, a small town on the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland, where they have a 5000 sq.ft indoor and 3000sq.ft indoor facility secured (it was once a school).

Wiper is in part setting up shop in Raleigh to help revitalize economic prospects and activity in the area. “Populations are decreasing and young people are leaving to find work,” Wiper says, “3F creates high paying rural jobs that will allow educated Newfoundlanders to remain in the province.”

He’s also looking to change the state of waste management on the Northern Peninsula. “All garbage except bottles are simply put into a black bag and sent to a landfill. At full capacity, 3F will divert upwards of 5 million pounds of garbage a year from the landfill.”

Primary processors in the Northern Peninsula are currently dumping at sea, a pit in the forest, or paying ever-increasing tipping fees at the landfill. “3F will turn an environmental pollutant and expense into a new revenue stream. So many resources leave the island without any type of secondary processing; 3F will lead by example and demonstrate how underutilized resources can create economic opportunity for rural communities, and keep more money circulating in the local economy.”

Grenfell Campus Pilot Program

In order to achieve their 98% or higher utilization target for all inbound raw materials, 3F will be building “an R&D greenhouse” at their plant in Raleigh, that will be a living, growing science experiment in partnership with Grenfell Campus.

The goal is to compost the by-products of their extraction process, in order to create fish compost formulas people can buy and apply to their gardens. “The greenhouse will have 6 plots growing the same vegetables,” Wiper explains. “But one plot will be a control, using standard fertilizer.”

The other 5 plots will use different variations of their fish compost formulations, and 3F and Grenfell Campus will study how the 5 different variations affect crop yields and nutrition, relative to the control plot.

“The endgoal is to own the intellectual property for crop-speific custom fish compost formulations so that it can be made into a dry concentrate, or licensed and sold to soil and agriservices companies as an additive to their existing products.”

As for the greenhouse itself, it’ll be a welcome addition to the area. There are very few greenhouses growing vegetables in the community, and he says “3F will be a leader in crop yield maximization.”

It’s a multi-faceted project, with a ton of perks, and the project is in good hands: this ain’t Wiper’s first entrepreneurial rodeo. He’s already started a few other successful businesses from restaurants in Ontario to IT companies in Nova Scotia. For the last 6 years, he’s worked in executive-level positions at a primary and a secondary seafood manufacturer.

“Making the leap into manufacturing, to solve real-world challenges that make a difference in people’s day-to-day lives would be an honour and a priviledge that I would not let go to ‘waste’” he puns.

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