Multi-million dollar boost for Kiwi company turning food waste into power

Two innovative Kiwi companies have each received a multi-million dollar boost from the Government's provincial growth fund.

Seven million dollars will help develop a project which aims to see New Zealand powered on the food we waste. 

A new demonstration plant is being built in Reporoa, which will decompose waste food and collect the biogas it creates.

It'll power the glasshouse at Turners and Growers and produce enough electricity for a thousand homes.

"In the next two or three years, when we're at full scale we've estimated around 75,000 tonnes of organic food waste from both households and industrial sources," says EcoGas spokesperson Stuart Walker.

We waste at least 327,000 tonnes of food each year, making up about 30 percent of our landfill.

As the waste food breaks down, it releases methane, a greenhouse gas.

But this new project will instead capture that biogas and turn it into useful renewable energy.

Even better, the CO2 that would have gone into the atmosphere helps grow the produce.

And there are plans for more sites like it around the country.

"We see the potential for up to 21 of these sites throughout New Zealand over the next five to 10 years."

At the Ohaaki Power Station, there's more exciting work happening.

Fifteen-million dollars will be invested in a world first technology extracting silica tapping into a billion dollar global industry.

It's a naturally occurring mineral, and it's a waste product in the generation of geothermal electricity.

Kiwi company Geo40 has found a way to extract the silica from the water.. and make money out of it.

"The way that it is industrially made is using high temperatures and chemicals to get the silica dissolved in water," says Geo40 CEO John Lea,  "In geothermal, nature does all the hard work in dissolving the silica so it's a much better way, a lot more environmentally friendly."

A million tonnes of silica is used around the world - to make paint, concrete, and cast anything from replacement hip joints to golf clubs.

"This has the potential to be a $50 million export business when we roll it out over the region," says Mr Lea, "This first plant will employ over 70 staff for the construction and more in workshops where we are pre-fabricating equipment. Eventually, we will have 25 staff on site with a potential further five jobs when we complete the expansion."

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones says they're just the type of pioneering businesses the regions need.

"Technology, entrepreneurialism, and look, moving the whole narrative forward about how you create jobs in New Zealand and rural New Zealand," says Mr Jones.

Harnessing our natural resources, and our waste resources, to boost employment and the economy.