Wastenot Farms replaces landfilling with small-scale composting

Sponsored feature: presented by Social Ventures Zone at Ryerson University

The Social Ventures Zone at Ryerson University is home to unique entrepreneurial initiatives that are designed to make a positive impact in a variety of communities, both in Toronto and beyond. See all of our profiles here.

Wastenot Farms

Who’s involved in this project? 

Jocelyn Molyneux (owner and operator) and John Wilson (vice-president operations).

What are your goals for this project? 

Wastenot Farms is service business created to stop food waste from going to landfill, instead using worm composting to economically promote soil health and soil carbon sequestration through regenerative agriculture. We collect food waste from offices, workplaces and festivals, and we use it to produce Jocelyn’s Soil Booster plant food. Jocelyn launched the company after working at a large waste management firm and learning that commercial food waste is sent to landfill in Michigan because it costs less than composting here in Ontario.

What is the biggest challenge you’re facing?

The biggest challenge is competing in an economic system that doesn’t account for externalities: landfilling is cheap because it doesn’t consider long-term damage to our planet. Small-scale, regenerative agriculture is a great model for growing healthy food and creating jobs, but profit margins are slim compared to large-scale, fossil-fuel and pesticide-based agriculture. Developing a triple bottom-line business model is challenging when there is no monetary return on creating jobs or replenishing depleted soils – nor are costs imposed on waste handlers for their emissions from landfill and transportation.

Can you explain the mentorship process available to you through the Ryerson Social Ventures Zone (SVZ)? 

The SVZ connected us with a great coach who is helping to develop a profitable financial model. The support of fellow entrepreneurs building social impact businesses is important because they understand the challenge of making money while doing good.

The Ryerson SVZ is all about leveraging innovation to make a social impact. How will your project affect the communities you’re targeting?

We focus on promoting urban agriculture, reconnecting city dwellers with the importance of healthy food, healthy soil and closing the loop on environmental resources. Environmental stewardship comes from appreciating that we are wholly connected to the soil. Donating a portion of Jocelyn’s Soil Booster to community gardens is an important way we connect communities to healthy soil and local food security.

Have you been able to obtain any feedback from people who stand to benefit from your project? If so, what have they told you?

Workplaces that use our compost collection service say they love that they can pay it forward with their lunchtime leftovers, and their community planting events are always a big hit with staff. Urban growers love Jocelyn’s Soil Booster because they feel good using an all-natural plant food that is made locally and sustainably and regenerates their soil for healthy growing.

What kind of public or private partnerships are you hoping to make (if any) to help grow your project?

To scale up our worm composting facility, we would need an environmentally committed partner with 10,000 square-feet of suburban warehouse space and who would be willing to accept reduced rent in exchange for regenerating the soil we depend on to grow food.

Imagine if you could scale up your project to its full potential. What would that look like?

Compost City is our dream of building an regenerative agricultural community centre in every neighbourhood across the GTA. These facilities would up-cycle food waste into soil, grow vegetables in community gardens and educate people on the importance of local, organic growing for food security and health.

Timing is a crucial factor that contributes to the success of a social venture. Why is now the right time for your project?

Our current climate crisis can be solved by replenishing soils with carbon through regenerative agriculture – or what most people call “organic” growing. On November 15th, the Ontario government released the Food and Organic Waste Framework for comment on the Environmental Registry, which is set out to promote solutions that will move the province towards zero waste, zero greenhouse gas emissions from waste and with the ultimate goal of building a circular economy.

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