Prior research conducted by our Institute has revealed the large quantities of food waste available in New York State, particularly in the Upstate corridor extending from Buffalo to Syracuse. The Finger Lakes region is heavily populated with agricultural operations, dairy farms and food processing plants, including those producing milk, yogurt, wine, and canned fruits and vegetables. The diverse supply of organic waste generated by these facilities offers the opportunity for sustainable energy production through one of three primary pathways:
• Anaerobic digestion to produce methane
• Fermentation to produce alcohols
• Transesterification to produce biodiesel.
Generally speaking, food wastes are better suited for biochemical conversion instead of thermo-chemical conversion (combustion, gasification, pyrolysis) due to their relatively high moisture content. The current paper provides an initial assessment of food wastes within the 9-County Finger Lakes region around Rochester, New York. Available databases were utilized to first identify all the relevant companies operating in one of four broad industry sectors: agriculture, food processing, food distribution and food services (including restaurants). Our analysis has demonstrated that anaerobic digestion can be a viable method for sustainable energy production from food waste in the Finger Lakes region, due to the dual economic benefits of effective disposal cost reduction and production of methane-rich biogas.