Compost Cab

Compost Cab
Jeremy Brosowsky, Founder, Agricity LLC

The Project:
“What if we could take our garbage and grow food in it?”
That’s the question I asked my 7-year old daughter and 6-year old son two years ago. Then I watched their eyes light up, and I knew we were onto something.

Compost Cab is in the magic business. We take food waste and turn it into food. 

We launched our company in 2010 to pursue two goals:
1. Make it easier for people to compost in cities, and
2. Make it easier for urban agriculture to thrive.

Our core business, with hundreds of residential subscribers in and around the nation’s capital, is straightforward. You sign up online. We deliver you a rodent-proof, odor-free compost collection bin, along with an Urban Composting Made Easy guide. You follow our dead-simple directions and fill the bin with your food scraps. And then once a week we come and collect it, leaving you with a nice clean bin, and a clean conscience to match.

We then deliver your food scraps whenever possible to one of our not-for-profit urban farm partners, where your scraps (an excellent source of nitrogen) are combined with wood chips, leaf mulch, and other carboniferous material. Add water, oxygen, and time, and presto – fertile, nutrient rich soil! The farms use most of this soil to grow more food for the communities they serve. And once you’ve been in our system for a while, you, as residential subscriber, can have some of the finished compost, too.

We’ve proven the model works over the past 24 months. Now we’re poised to take the next step in our growth. We’ve developed a scalable platform—think of it as Compost Cab in a box—to bring Compost Cab to communities around the country beginning this fall. We’re excited to bring Urban Composting Made Easy to cities and towns everywhere!

We also offer commercial composting services in partnership with haulers (why put more trucks on the road—there’s plenty of capacity in the hauling system) community compost drop-off at local farmers markets, and work with local schools to integrate composting into their curricula. In aggregate, we currently divert more than 4 tons of organic material from landfills, help create enough new soil to support four urban farming projects, and touch thousands of people with the habit of composting each week. 

Compost Cab makes an explicit connection between food waste and food production. Farm-to-table is good, but farm-to-table-to-farm is better. By making that connection, between what we eat and where it comes from, we take what was once considered trash and turn it into a valuable resource. And a profitable business—which is what makes it sustainable.

I’m Jeremy Brosowsky. I had the idea for Compost Cab in the back of a greenhouse in Milwaukee, WI, on March 21st, 2010. This is not my first start-up. It’s my third. And I have the scars to prove it. I’m a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, the London School of Economics, and Will Allen’s commercial urban agriculture program. I have four kids between the ages of 4 and 9, and live two miles from the White House.

Our team is appropriate to the size of our existing business. In addition to me, there’s Will Herman, who grew up on a farm in Maine and recently completed a stint as a Teach for America fellow. We work with many terrific part-timers, and a web/app team at Singlebrook Technology that helps us develop the tools we need to efficiently scale our business—Leon Miller-Out and his team have serious chops.

Our Impact:
Our core missions, making it easy for people to compost, and making it easier for urban agriculture to thrive, make deep integration into the community fundamental to what we do.

Let’s start with our home market of Washington, DC. For starters, we collect food scraps from hundreds of homes each week in neighborhoods across the city and the surrounding suburbs. Our weekly pickup service enables people to compost who either didn’t or couldn’t already do so. We partner with FreshFarm Markets, the largest manager of producer-only farmers markets in the region, to bring community compost drop-off to two of their largest markets – we collected nearly 8 tons of food scraps at the Dupont Circle Farmers Market in our first year there! We work with dozens of businesses and other commercial-scale customers to bring composting to their employees (or in the case of apartment buildings and condos, to their residents).

We serve our local community here in Washington by making it easy for people and organizations to compost. Then, whenever possible, we deliver the material we collect to our not-for-profit farm partners. We currently work with four, each in a different neighborhood and focused primarily on serving their hyper-local community:

The ECO City Farm in Edmonston, MD, has been a partner since we started. Using sustainable – and mostly scalable – techniques, they grow beautiful food and train new farmers. Nearly every ounce of soil on their farm was built from scratch from the clean stream of nitrogen that we make available to them for free.

The Common Good City Farm in Ledroit Park, DC, is barely 2 miles away from our community drop point at the Dupont Circle Farmers Market. Most Sunday afternoons after market, we go straight to Common Good, and work with them to process hundreds of pounds of food scraps into compost.

The Farm at Walker Jones sits adjacent to a DC public elementary school serving nearly 400 low-income students about a mile north of the U.S. Capitol. The farm itself began a few years ago when a bunch of community members took scythes in hand and cleared what had been a vacant lot filled with 6-foot tall weeds. We help them build their soil fertility by revamping and overseeing their composting operation. We also participate in workshops, for students city-wide as well as for educators from around the region who look to Walker Jones as a model for school gardens and farms.

Then there’s the Washington Youth Garden at the National Arboretum, who we’re helping develop a new composting system, fed by our clean stream of food scraps.

We tailor our efforts to the needs of each individual farm, helping develop and disseminate best practices along the way. We envision doing so with hundreds of farms in the years to come.

Making it easier for people to compost is part of our mission precisely because of its benefits to the community. We like to think of composting as a Trojan horse for sustainability writ large. Washington DC recently put together a 20-year sustainability plan that identified 11 distinct goals. Our efforts benefited nine of them. Composting touches everything.

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