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OPN Connect Newsletter 330 · July 27, 2023

Divert CEO Ryan Begin Presents Keynote at OPS 2023


Every year, the United States generates more than 100 million tons of wasted food—the majority of it being fresh fruits and vegetables—with over 50 percent going to landfills or incinerators. Divert CEO and Co-Founder Ryan Begin shared the work his company is doing using advanced technologies and sustainable infrastructure to address the $408 billion food-waste issue during the first keynote presentation of the 2023 Organic Produce Summit, held July 13 in Monterey, California.

According to Begin, 35 percent of the contents of American landfills is wasted food, and those landfills can only hold 17 more years of accumulation at the current rate. For Begin, this staggering problem presented an opportunity to develop an innovative approach to both eliminate wasted food and double net profits in the retail space.

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Keynote speaker Ryan Begin, CEO and Co-Founder, Divert

“There is no other proposition with that type of value,” Begin said.

Founded in Massachusetts in 2007, the guiding question of Divert remains, “What is being wasted and why?" said Begin. “And how do we close that loop?” Divert uses a “prevent, provide, power” approach to its multi-faceted business model with 5,000 retail partners.

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Audience during the OPS 2023 keynote presentations

The “prevent” side uses technology to help understand “what’s happening from the farm to the shelf” and unravel the causes of food waste. Begin described using sensors along the supply chain to identify if food was exposed to temperatures that promote premature decomposition. Monitoring this metric helped identify an opportunity to prevent food from wilting on loading docks, Begin said.

“What is being wasted and why? And how do we close that loop?” - Ryan Begin

The “provide” part of the business involves programs to recover safe and edible food from retailers and donate it to food banks. According to Divert’s website, the company has donated the equivalent of 9.6 million meals since 2018.

“Retailers don’t understand residual value,” said Begin, referring to the ability to donate products to food banks past their sell-by date. “This was a need that was underrepresented before.”

The final pillar of Divert, "power," refers to the company’s last option to repurpose food waste. According to Begin, 85 percent of donated food waste is fresh produce. Items that cannot be donated or otherwise repurposed are processed into renewable energy. Divert uses streamlined infrastructure to sort, unpackage, and liquefy food waste. An anaerobic digestion process results in methane biogas, Begin said.

“Retailers don’t understand residual value,” said Begin, referring to the ability to donate products to food banks past their sell-by date. “This was a need that was underrepresented before.”

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Begin appealed to the organic growers and retailers in the audience when he explained his dedication to “preserving what’s going to waste.”

“People don’t understand or appreciate” the life cycle of food, Begin said, reiterating his mission of “addressing the human and environmental crises created by wasted food.”

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