Born and raised in North Vancouver, BC, ReFeed Farms CVO and Founder Stuart Lilley’s lifelong interest in food, which began around the family dinner table and took him through several education and career stages, finally found its true mission in founding ReFeed.
After cutting his teeth in hospitality as a teenager and student, Stuart moved into the wholesale side of the food business while keeping his eyes fixed on the eventual goal of starting his own business. An ad about becoming a waste management consultant caught his eye and appealed to his long interest in waste reduction and recycling, and he threw himself in the deep end, selling his home and moving in with in-laws to finance the start-up.
Having experienced first-hand the waste endemic in the hospitality industry, Stuart found his initial niche working with operators to help with their food waste issues. Business flourished, putting him back under his own roof within a year and opening up new opportunities for his entrepreneurial drive. Ironically, it was a wrong number call from the owner of a Black Solider Fly operation which turned food waste into organic fertilizer that would be the start of a bigger journey.
He not only jumped at the opportunity to supply them, he became part of the company, understanding that this process could be the missing piece of a new model of food recovery. And the timing was just right with British Columbia moving to ban all organics from landfills, and food suppliers, retailers, and hospitality operators were facing a new operational landscape.
Stuart kept pushing forward, refining his idea of a circular process which would extract full utility from plant-based food waste, but it took time for the epiphany to realize that there was a solution right under his feet: worms.
Unlike equipment and impact-intensive black fly waste transformation, worms can turn waste food into nutrient-rich fertilizers and soil remediation products with little more than a dark, warm place to live. Eating up to half their own body mass daily and doubling their biomass in as little as six weeks, worms produce microbially dense castings to return to the growing process, close the loop on the food waste cycle.
Out of this epiphany came ReFeed and the concept of Circular Nutrition™. From the ReFeed Farm in Langley, BC, Stuart and his team develop and demonstrate processes through which 100% of waste food can be turned into nutrition for humans, livestock, and the soil. Along with food reclamation for humans, they turn excess food into feed for dairy farm herds which then provide them with manure which is centrifuged then bioconverted into seed inoculants, compost teas and growing mediums.
ReFeed’s end products–castings, inoculants, compost teas and growing mediums –can be used as organic, natural fertilizer and soil amendments to aid growers and farmers in reducing their usage of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides while also regenerating their soil and supporting their transition to regenerative farming practices.
Stuart continues to chase his vision of a repaired and sustainable food system daily with the work being done at ReFeed Farm.