From waste to taste: that’s the simplest way to explain RISE Products, an ingenious company dreamed up in 2013 by Bertha Jimenez, just prior to starting work on her PhD in technology management and innovation at the Tandon School of Engineering.
Jimenez’s start-up provides flour for some seriously flavorful bread and baked goods, but she will be the first to tell you she is an engineer, not a baker. After earning an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering at the Escuela Superior Politécnica del Litoral in her native Ecuador, then a master’s in engineering and technology management at Portland State University, Jimenez won a full doctoral scholarship to NYU to study innovation and entrepreneurship.
Inspired by the idea of industrial symbiosis, she and a few colleagues began looking for an industrial byproduct in plentiful supply locally that they could repurpose. “We discovered that there are more than 30 breweries just in New York City, so we started with Greenpoint Beer and Ale in Brooklyn,” Jimenez says. “We asked them for their waste, which is spent grain—mostly barley. They were a little skeptical, and, to be honest, we had no idea what we could do with it.”
Realizing how nutritious the grain is (brewing removes the sugars, and the barley is high in fiber and protein), they began drying and processing this substance into flour. After testing it with a local baker, who loved the deep caramel flavors, they knew they were onto something.
In 2017, six months after graduation, the company was incorporated. Today, just two years later, RISE recovers waste from 20 breweries, is working with Anheuser-Busch to develop other products, and sells flour to more than 25 bakers, chefs, and food manufacturers. The name RISE—originally a “nerdy” acronym for Raising Industrial Symbiotic Economies, Jimenez says—has new meaning: “We are rising up against food waste.”
(Portrait by George Etheredge)
The name RISE—originally a “nerdy” acronym for Raising Industrial Symbiotic Economies—has new meaning: “We are rising up against food waste.”