In a world plagued by the dual challenges of food waste and climate change, Goterra stands out as a pioneering force, a start-up founded by Olympia Yarger who is committed to rewriting the narrative of waste management.
Originally founded in 2014, Goterra’s innovative solution merges the forces of nature with cutting-edge automation, pushing the pursuit of a circular economy through the deployment of smart-city infrastructure for food waste management.
In 2023, the organisation processed nearly 4 million kgs of wasted food, which roughly equates to a whopping 7 million kgs of CO2e mitigated.
Olympia shares her standout moments so far, as well as the inevitable challenges she’s experienced while on the scale-up journey. In addition, we get a glimpse into Olympia’s vision for the future of Goterra, a path powered by Olympia’s relentless commitment to farming and sustainability.
Making insect-farming history
Olympia’s journey with Goterra began with a humble desire to address the unpredictability of feedstock prices.
This seed of an idea quickly sprouted into a comprehensive solution that tackles not just one, but two critical challenges: the growing issue of food waste and its impact on climate change, and the concerns around the future of food production.
Recognising the invaluable potential of the environment around her, Olympia felt compelled to design a solution that addressed the issue of food wastage whilst also benefiting the planet.
Her lightbulb moment? Insect-Farming.
“At Goterra, we believe in harnessing the power of nature and technology to work together to create a greener, more sustainable future”.
Goterra’s innovative system centres around modular, autonomous insect farms.
Insect farms, Olympia explains, process organic waste by breaking it down and converting it into valuable, eco-friendly by-products, such as insect protein and fertiliser. A process known as “bioconversion”, which is already being used by Woolworths and by Lendlease / JLL's Barangaroo precinct in Sydney.
The organisation leverages black soldier fly larvae to convert food waste into high-value, low-impact protein and fertiliser in just 12 days. “It’s cost-effective, eco-friendly, and sustainable, and will change the way you manage waste forever”, states the company’s website.
Not only is the entire process remarkably environmentally friendly, but it’s also incredibly scalable. From chaotic concrete jungles to peaceful rural retreats, insect farms are adaptable to a variety of diverse settings.
"Our system is about more than waste management; it's about creating resources that benefit the environment”.
the mounds and troughs
A standout of Goterra's many achievements, says Olympia, is the successful deployment of their modular systems across several high-profile customer locations and “Goterra hubs” across four states.
In addition to successfully scaling their solution across Australia, Goterra has forged a strategic collaboration with Woolworths, a partnership stemming from a mutual commitment to sustainable waste management.
"Our biggest win is seeing our technology make a real difference in communities. It's about turning ideas into action".
The collaboration not only validates Goterra’s approach, acknowledges Olympia, but also significantly amplifies the company’s impact - an alliance that seamlessly aligns with the organisation’s overarching vision of decentralised, sustainable waste-management solutions.
"Working with Woolworths is more than a partnership; it's a shared commitment to making a meaningful impact on our environment".
But of course, no journey is without its challenges.
Olympia admits that Goterra’s greatest hurdle while scaling its operations has been in maintaining the delicate balance between technological innovation and ecological responsibility.
Balancing growth with responsibility is an ongoing commitment, however it's a challenge that Olympia and the team at Goterra embrace with dedication.
“Ensuring our systems continue to be both effective and sustainable into the future requires ongoing research and adaptation”, reflects Olympia.
Committed to the complexity of nature
Olympia has accumulated valuable lessons during her decade-long journey with Goterra; lessons which she generously imparts with those venturing into the realm of Agtech.
“Stay committed to your vision but be flexible in your approach,” she urges; and “Understand the complex nature of agricultural ecosystems and the importance of creating solutions for problems that are sustainable, scalable, and can adapt to changing environmental conditions.”
Although a founder’s journey is never smooth-sailing, Olympia acknowledges the invaluable role KPMG High Growth Ventures has played while she has steered the Goterra ship.
Where to next?
Considering the future, Olympia is excited to continue expanding Goterra's reach and impact while maintaining her commitment to good business practice.
Despite having numerous exciting projects in development, the Goterra founder remains dedicated to ensuring the fundamentals of her business are strong.
By leveraging the support of the KPMG High Growth Ventures team early on, Goterra’s exponential growth is a result of Olympia being able to channel her time and attention into where her passions lie as a founder: enhancing Goterra’s technology, turning the data collected into valuable insights, and exploring new applications for their insect-farming systems.
Wrapping up our conversation, Olympia emphasises the importance of collaboration in humanity’s global pursuit to address environmental challenges.
Although innovative solutions such as Goterra’s are a remarkable and inspiring development, they represent just one facet of addressing the climate change crisis. To truly be successful, they must be coupled with collective input and efforts.
Olympia is optimistic about the future and, with passion that feels tangible, it’s hard not to be when in her presence. It’s an attitude no-doubt shared by other visionaries in this sector and an exciting outlook for the future of cleantech in Australia.
"The future is full of possibilities, and we're eager to explore them. Our commitment to innovation remains unwavering".
Learn more about Goterra here.
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