An alternative to composting that involves a lot of bugs and a pair of spritely young entrepreneurs, Terra Optima Labs is tackling food waste in London, ON by leveraging nature to create industry-leading systems. Focused on solving the problems of food insecurity, soil degradation, and food waste, Terra Optima Labs has created a circular food waste processing system using technology and natural organisms (yep, bugs) to harness the nutrients left in food waste and turn it into natural fertilizers. Better yet, initial studies of these fertilizers in use are showing extraordinary results for sustainable farming practices and increased nutritional content of yielded crops. 

Co-Founded in 2021 by William Wang and Dan Nejman, Terra Optima Labs was born from a collective care for food security, decarbonization and climate change as the two founders connected on a common ground, wanting to launch a venture that would make an impact on the earth. Currently in action at The Grove at Western Fair District, the team are composting food waste from the site, creating biomass from the composting worms and larvae used to break down the waste that is then collected to feed livestock, and harvesting the excrement from the waste that creates a powerful fertilizer, currently available to customers online. “We are creating sustainable on-site waste processing solutions for institutions, businesses, and agriculture” says Wang, “Ideally, we can create circularity within these operations to create a more environmentally friendly solution for organic waste, fertilizer production, and food production.”

Using what’s available in nature to do amazing things with waste, the Terra Optima Labs team is using technology to take composting one step further. Identifying the most efficient waste decomposers that also create the best outputs from metabolic processes, they have enhanced the habitats of these organisms to get the best results each time. Pioneering their technology systems around the powerful natural systems that already existed within our ecosystem, the research and development process has become an incredible learning opportunity for the team, showing promising results for their systems to scale. 

Terra Optima Labs is a recent i.d.e.a Fund recipient. Supported by a $10-million Government of Canada investment through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), the i.d.e.a. Fund is led by Innovation Guelph in partnership with five Regional Innovation Centres (RICs): WEtech Alliance, Haltech, Innovate Niagara, Innovation Factory and TechAlliance of Southwestern Ontario. The program helps high-potential ventures access the tools they need to succeed by providing financial and business advisory supports to develop or redesign products, services, processes and technologies that reduce impacts on the environment and create made-in-Canada solutions.

Using their funding towards further research and development, Terra Optima Labs is focused on quantifying the farming sustainability and increase in nutritional content of the food grown with their fertilizers. Market research identified that current specialty mushroom farming practices use significant energy and labour, requiring intensive inputs for current yields. Through their research, Terra Optima Labs has been able to test their hypothesis of using natural soil fertilizers to enhance the productivity and growth of the mushrooms, and by doing so, reduce the amount of energy  and effort needed to grow them. Seeing up to 100% increase in the fruiting mushroom sizes and 50% decrease in the time it takes to grow, their early conclusions are looking promising for the mushroom farming industry, as well as their circular food waste technology capabilities to be implemented into these farming practices. With mushroom eating growing in prevalence in recent years, these research goals will eventually turn into the commercialization of their fertilizer products for farmers and producers. Locally, they will continue to run studies while maintaining relationships that supply the community and nearby restaurants with food while maintaining a revenue stream that supports the continued research and development of their food waste systems as a whole. 

As seasons change and Canadian crops and home gardens flourish, Terra Optima fertilizers are available direct to customers through or through “Terra Optima has been developing their business to sell at every system level,” says Aman Samra, Startup Advisor at TechAlliance dedicated to Terra Optima “Their business model is built on a core belief in sustainability in every sense of the word, building a circular system that allows for multiple revenue streams while maintaining their high standards of waste solutions, innovating to help other businesses and have environmental impact”. 

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