Product Development with Meaning

Laura Anthony


GTF – Good for the earth, good for people, and good for business.

Have you ever been introduced to a new product concept and come away thinking, “Wow—what an amazing idea! This could make a huge impact in our world. I really hope they succeed.” As a product development firm, DISHER is always excited to partner with clients who have a far-reaching mission. GTF Technologies is a perfect example. Not only is their idea marketable and makeable—it is meaningful. As GTF states, their new system is Good for the earth, good for people, and good for business. My mind is still churning from the time we spent with the GTF team.

The Problem

Food Waste

GTF is a Southwest Michigan startup who is laser focused on reducing waste and world hunger while improving the environment and profitability of their customers. Sounds like an impossible goal until you learn more about their idea. After meeting GTF’s visionary Founder and President, Gary Schuler, we sat down with Barb Weaver, Director of Marketing, in their beautiful new corporate office in Ada, Michigan, to hear about their concept firsthand.

Barb started off by explaining the problem our world is facing. Did you know that over 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted every year? As soon as fruits, vegetables, and plants are harvested­—they immediately begin to decompose. Sadly, approximately half of all fruits and vegetables are wasted each year representing one-trillion dollars. That is enough food to feed the estimated 811 million unnourished people in our world two times over. Much of this unused food is buried in landfills causing harmful greenhouse gas emission and taking up lots of our natural resources. The entire GTF team has been earnestly working to develop an answer to this global problem.

 

GTF Founders
Left to Right: Gary Schuler (Founder and President), Barb Weaver (Director of Marketing),
and Jim Weaver (CEO)

The Solution

Barb explained how their innovative RENU system not only dries fruits, vegetables, and plants but also mills them at the same time. Here’s how it works. The RENU system is custom designed, built, and installed by GTF onsite at a customer’s location. With the system onsite, handling and decay are greatly reduced as excess raw materials are conveyed directly from the processing equipment to the RENU Drying and Milling System. The raw materials are stabilized and powderized within seconds. GTF then helps connect their powder-producing customers with consumers, either other businesses or charitable organizations. The lightweight powders are attractive to buyers because they are easy to transport, have a long shelf life, and do not require any chemicals or additives to keep them stable. The powders can be upcycled into a variety of useful and profitable byproducts.

GTF’s patent-pending RENU™ Drying and Milling System.
GTF’s patent-pending RENU Drying and Milling System.

The Benefits

In addition to the ability to feed hungry people nutritious food throughout the world, Barb went on to describe two other key benefits of their system. With RENU, less food is placed into landfills thereby reducing harmful carbon dioxide emissions. It is better for our environment. Plus, farmers and food processors can boost their bottom line by converting sidestreams and/or byproducts into a variety of new revenue streams such as food or food ingredients, vitamins, beverages, biomaterials, extracts, spices, pet foods, and fertilizers. RENU customers are more profitable, and they can receive environmental incentives from the government. It is a real win-win-win.

A series of bowls with powdered foods
Raw materials are stabilized and powderized within seconds to be upcycled into other products.

The Advantages of RENU Over Other Systems

RENU’s proprietary technology is faster than other methods because it simultaneously dries and mills plant-based materials in seconds. Other systems only dry the materials. With RENU, there is lower moisture content (up to 97% is removed), it is more energy efficient (no natural gas needed), and it takes much less space (most systems are 1,000 square feet or less). RENU’s finely milled powders are also more nutritional and stable with a higher sensory profile. DISHER engineers have had the privilege of partnering with GTF engineers on the design and development of the RENU Drying and Milling System. Our team has been involved with new feature design and development (patents pending), optimizing the process, creating CAD drawings, ancillary equipment design, system testing, and more. GTF is the type of company DISHER is thrilled to partner with as we share a common vision to leave the world better than we found it.

Two engineers working on GTF's Milling System
GTF Senior Project Engineer, Michael Nicolas, and DISHER Product Development Engineer, Joshua Manninen, optimizing components of the GTF RENU system.

 

Markets for RENU

Direct customers for GTF’s RENU system include large-scale farms, food processors, beer breweries (spent grain), hemp farms (bioplastics and biocomposites), large post-consumer food waste producers, and large-scale composters. GTF’s goal is to custom design and build RENU systems to fit the specific recycling needs of each customer. Their current sales strategy is to license their RENU systems. A variety of customers will be able to use RENU to repurpose their byproducts and food assets into profit-making income and/or charitable donation. The costs and problems associated with moving their waste to a landfill are gone, while the world benefits from a plethora of upcycled products.

The Back Story of GTF

Prior to GTF, Gary Schuler worked at Cintas Corporation, America’s largest supplier of uniforms. While at work one day, he noticed a large 30-foot wall of returned uniforms marked “This Week’s Returns”. They were all headed for the landfill. This tugged at Gary’s heart knowing that thousands of new uniforms were being wasted. Gary worked to repurpose these uniforms with several organizations. They found ways to donate the garments to others in need all over the world. At the same time, Gary generated $4 million in tax savings for the company.

Gary’s passion to repurpose waste continued to grow. In 2014, he founded GTF with renewed excitement over upcycling and redistributing plant-based materials. The company is close to launching their RENU system as they near the end of the product development process and pilot testing. Thank you, GTF team, for making a positive difference in our world! You are creating positive ripples of influence that will make a meaningful impact for generations to come. Watch the video below to learn more about their mission.

GTF is an acronym for Gleaning the Fields inspired by Leviticus 19:9-10: “Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap the very corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and the stranger.”

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