When me and my new partners bought this business 8 years ago, it was losing money, and it operated out of the United States.
Now we are profitable and have operations in multiple countries. To do this we have had to pivot a number of times. Downsizing, scaling up, scaling out, international distributors, acquisitions, and developing a new company structure to allow us to take a strategic international approach.
ORCA has seen a few things, and we’re gearing up to see a lot more — specifically, we are going global. With over 2,000 installs in more than 10 countries — I wanted to highlight some of the places where we have noticed an enthusiastic adoption of ORCA Digesters:
Where everything started & where I call home. In the 90s I started one of the earlier recycling operations in the city — out of my parents’ garage, nonetheless. I was able to grow, and eventually exit this venture in 2011 when my partner and I sold the business to one of Toronto’s current waste collection companies. When it was still under our management, it always bothered me to see hundreds of idling garbage trucks in the lot every morning, waiting to be loaded and sent out. This is what inspired ORCA’s vision: to get every garbage truck off the road.
Love recycling, hate the trucks — and the blue plumes of smoke that come out of them.
ORCA outsmarts garbage trucks. By using existing infrastructure (the sanitary sewer system) to dispose of food waste, we are reducing the reliance on these congestion-causing, CO2-emitting garbage trucks. But we’re not going to stop at just food waste. We have other avenues we have yet to explore.
ORCA became what it is today as a result of several chance encounters. I first encountered an ORCA machine at a tradeshow. My soon-to-be business partner, Shawn Dym, was introduced to ORCA by a business school acquaintance. It just so happened we were both Canadian. We both made our own inquiries into the product, and the possibility of distributing it when the business owner noted that two Canucks were making similar inquiries, and introduced us to the other.
We met up in Toronto in 2011, and Shawn proposed that we should
‘think bigger.’ He suggested we buy the company! After some due diligence, we did.
By 2013 we had conducted tests, validated, and invalidated our assumptions, changed the business model, brought manufacturing to Canada, redesigned and remanufactured ORCA. In 2014 I left for New York City, briefcase in hand to start making some sales.
There are over 2,000 ORCAs globally, diverting 50,000 pounds of food waste from landfill each hour.
New York, New York
New York City was our first expansion market — a very competitive market that is hard to break into with a new product. Spurred on by municipal food waste legislation passed in 2013, ORCA made a swift entry.
Starting with a long list of hotels, I was your typical door-to-door salesman. There was a lot of interest. The first hotel to install an ORCA was the Millennium Hilton. We’ve since gone on to secure an exclusive partnership with Hilton.
But it wasn’t just businesses that were interested in ORCA. After a meeting with one hotel, the person I had met with called me. He wanted to meet for a drink. The outcome of our drink:
ORCA had its first VP of Sales, Spiro Frangos.
Six years since being passed, New York’s municipal food waste law, Local Law 146, requires certain commercial businesses to separate and recycle its organic waste. It is estimated that 1/3 of the waste generated by food-generating businesses in New York City is organics. ORCA offers an on-site, hyperlocal, sustainable way to comply with this legislation.
Los Angeles, California
Heading over to the west coast, the “City of Angels” is the largest dichotomy of fertility and depletion. The state of California is responsible for producing over a third of the United States’ vegetables and two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts. This uses a significant percentage of the state’s groundwater. The good news is that ORCA can help to replenish the water table. How? Roughly 70% of organic food is made of water — ranging from 60% for meats and up to 90%+ for fruits and vegetables. All of this ‘contained water’ is released from the food scraps being digested in an ORCA — and then returned to the water table via the sewer system.
In 2016, ORCA entered the California market with some uncertainty. At the time, AB1826 — California’s new mandatory organics recycling legislation was still just an untested concept and digesters were a “foreign thought”– at the time they were not seen as contributing towards the state’s organic diversion efforts.
We worked with local municipalities to educate them on how ORCA could help, not hurt, their cities by utilizing the existing infrastructure to convey organics more efficiently. There to ease the transition was our West Coast Sales Director, Rob Gates. Having started out as a Toronto-based sales representative, he was ready and willing to help Californians “Feed The ORCA.” I think the success of our West Coast operations are due in large part to Rob’s passion and belief in the product.
After digestion takes place, ORCA sends your food waste to your local waste water treatment plant where methane — a greenhouse gas 30x more potent than CO2– can be captured and used to power systems that would have otherwise required net new fuel sources.
Wan-Chai, Hong Kong
Following early success in the California market, Rob heeded Shawn’s earlier advice and thought bigger.
In 2017, Rob set out to introduce the benefits of the ORCA technology to organizations in mainland China and South East Asia. As a 20+ year permanent resident of Hong Kong he felt that there were similar waste management issues that needed solving. Along with with four other partners with diverse environmental backgrounds, Rob opened an office in Hong Kong which can sell and service almost anywhere in the region.
“People are feeling it a lot more in Asia,” Rob tells me, “They can literally see the impact of greenhouse gases — people can’t see further than two football fields on an average day.” This isn’t news to most of us, but Rob tells me it is only now becoming a hot issue for the local citizens.
International organizations have been the first to consider environmental preservation initiatives in Hong Kong, and surrounding countries. Their proclivity to these initiatives is a result of having been exposed to criticism in other, more environmentally protected, regions of the world. But local businesses are starting to pay more attention.
Currently, there are no tipping fees associated with waste removal in Hong Kong. So what is to prevent businesses from producing as much waste as they do? This is something that the government is now taking an active role in addressing. Starting in 2021 waste fees will be instated. The government has invested in multiple waste-to-energy projects, with the newest, most advanced one set to open by 2024.
It was another arbitrary alignment of events that led Bill Papas to ORCA in 2016.Bill is from Australia, and the founder of Forum Enviro, a company that looks to provide innovative, sustainable solutions for its customers. Bill had previously been working on the development and manufacture of a similar product to ORCA with some Japanese partners. Disappointingly, after some two years of R&D, the decision was made to cease participation in this development and to search for an alternate solution. After extensive research, ORCA rose to the top of the results. Bill’s manufacturing experience with Forum Enviro has brought great insights, together with respected credentials in understanding the reseller/channel point of view. In 2016 Forum Enviro became an exclusive distributor of ORCAs in Australia, 16,000 km from headquarters.
Australia is a large country, with different buying motivators in each state.
In some regions the high cost of waste removal is the key motivating factor to seek alternative solutions; others are driven by the preservation of ecological systems, diversion from landfill and the strong desire to decongest inner-city roadways. Currently in Australia there are few legislative incentives to encourage adoption of a technology like ORCA, “That is something we hope will change in the near future,” Bill tells me.
Following some early success and great traction with ORCA in Australia, Bill also signed exclusive distribution deals in Brazil, the UAE, and Europe.
ORCAs are designed to adapt to local power and connection requirements, wherever you are in the world.
São Paulo, Brazil
In contrast to Australian motivators for purchase, Brazil does not have the same drivers for adoption. Hauling fees are low, diversion from landfill is high; but it does face similar incentives of highly populated, congested inner-city transport, as well as sanitation concerns.
Highly populated cities have become a new market adoption prequalification when scouting new markets to enter, “The
on-site, hyperlocal processing capabilities of ORCA has become a very attractive feature in these scenarios,” Bill acknowledges.
By dealing with food waste at the point of generation, you are taking trucks off the road. Our vision statement was inspired by the environmental concern, but the congestion issue has become a prominent concern as global cities expand and congest at exponential rates. As populations continue to grow, we need to come up with alternative solutions for how we deal with different streams of waste. ORCA has food waste covered.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
We were not surprised at the adoption of ORCA in Dubai, as it has the second most 5-star hotels in the world. These high-end hotels exude luxury, cleanliness and great service– all of which an ORCA embodies.
Next year, Dubai will host an international Exposition where one of three major themes is Sustainability. There is a lot of affluence in this part of the world; you can view it as excessive, or you can imagine what it can be put towards.
In early 2018 the UAE imposed a federally mandated law that aims to recycle 75% of waste by 2121, and 60% by 2020.
Waste hauling fees are only now being introduced because landfill space has started to reach Dubai’s living space. Such fees to an affluent population may be seen as negligible, but if a business can find a way to avoid the costs, it results in a stronger bottom line.
The introduction of an ORCA in this region will result in both environmental and monetary benefits.
It was fun writing this and recalling our journey. We have capitalized on a few random events and taken a very small local business and created a profitable global company. Every day around the world, ORCA technology is taking trucks off the road, and that is making a meaningful and immediate difference in the cities we live and work in.