Turn Your Waste Into Clean Energy with Oshik Efrati

November 16, 2021

Oshik graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Sciences, specializing in water treatment. During his military service as a decorated Officer, Oshik commanded a special forces unit in the IDF. Oshik then led the product development team at Shoresh, Israel’s largest tactical gear manufacturer and exporter, where he launched an innovative product, sold on a global scale. His next entrepreneurial endeavor was founding HomeBiogas together with his co-founders Yair Teller and Erez Lanzer in 2012. Oshik lives with his wife and two children in Neurim, where they enjoy surfing and hiking along the coastline.

https://www.homebiogas.com/homebiogas-is-on-a-mission-to-mars/

https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium.MAGAZINE-the-most-advanced-simulation-of-manned-mars-mission-is-happening-in-israel-1.10282412

John Shegerian: This edition of the Impact Podcast is brought to you by ERI. ERI has a mission to protect people, the planet and your privacy, and is the largest fully integrated IT and electronics asset disposition provider and cybersecurity-focused hardware destruction company in the United States, and maybe even the world. For more information on how ERI can help your business properly dispose of outdated electronic hardware devices, please visit eridirect.com.

John: Welcome to another edition of the Impact Podcast. I’m so honored. This is our first show ever that we’ve done an interview, in about fourteen years of doing this show, from Israel. So, welcome to the show. Oshik Efrati, he’s the co-founder and CEO of HomeBiogas. It’s an honor to have you today.

Oshik Efrati: It’s an honor to me, too. Thank you, John. Pleasure to be here.

John: As you just said off the air when we were chatting, just for truth in advertising, we’re connected because we have the same big brother. Ron Gonen is our big brother, with Closed Loop Partners. It’s an honor to be connected with such a great company on the other side of the world.

Oshik: You’re right. It’s a great honor to be part of the Closed Loop mission.

John: That’s right. Oshik, we want to talk about all the great work you’re doing at HomeBiogas, but before we get there, can you share a little bit about yourself? Because there’s so many entrepreneurs that watch this show and listen to this podcast. They say, “I want to be the next one. I want to be Oshik one day. I want to solve a big problem on this planet.” How did you get started? Where were you born and where were you educated?

Oshik: All right. First of all, I’m a father of two. I have two little kids. One is a five and one is seven years old. We live in Israel. I was born in Israel. My education, I studied Marine Biology. During my studies, I already started to invent products. At the beginning, it was tanks for filters or water purification filters for outdoor use. I discovered that I am good at it. I like it. I like to develop things. I love to solve problems.

John: When you were growing up, was Mom and Dad, were they inventors? Were they business people? What did they do for a living? What informed you and your childhood?

Oshik: Actually, my parents are immigrants from [inaudible]. My father was a gardener and my grandfather was a farmer. Actually, we’re not highly educated. They were simple people, hardworking. As a kid and a teenager, I was working with my father a lot. My father gave me a lot of responsibility. When I was a teenager, he already gave me a responsibility to run projects, sometimes complicated projects. He also gave me space to do mistakes. I think I learned a lot from it. After I finish high school, I went to the military like all young Israelis. I had the privilege to serve in an elite unit. That was actually a special unit and I was in this special unit for five years. After two and a half years, I became an officer. I was a commander of a team and then the commander of a platoon. I learned a lot during this time on leadership and actually managing complex situation, go through challenges, leading people to–

John: Excuse my ignorance. As an American, I’ve learned that the elite units are often in Israel. The Mossad, was that part of the group you were part of or some other elite unit there? Help me out.

Oshik: The Mossad does not belong to the military. In the military, there are mandatory three years. Everybody needs to serve for three years. Women actually are serving too for two years.

John: Wow.

Oshik: Yes, and because I was in a special unit and I was an officer, I stayed for another two years so in total, five years.

John: That’s what informed your leadership style and you learned a lot about leadership when you were going through that experience.

Oshik: Yes. Sure. It shaped my perspective on how to lead people and how to make them follow you. It’s all about self example, courage and values.

John: That’s really true — the courage and values. Now, you had great experience, you had great values growing up with family that tended to the earth, farmers and people that worked on the earth. Some of my in-laws are farmers. They come from a farming background. There’s great appreciation from your family with regards to the planet. Now, you learned leadership skills in the military. What was your aha moment that said, “Okay. I want to take my background and my skills that I’ve learned and want to be an entrepreneur.” When was that moment in your life?

Oshik: Yes. This has happened even before the military. I think it’s something that was first, when I was sixteen, I was already entrepreneur. I run small business of cleaning cars, and then taking care of people’s gardens. But I think that in the military, the patriotism to protect the country was very strong. When I finish the military reserve, this patriotism of taking care of only my country become bigger. It’s become bigger and wider to taking care of earth. I was traveling, actually, for two years around the world after I finished my military. I was in Africa and in the South America, Central America, Europe, U.S., Canada, and see different cultures. I saw beautiful places. After this trip, my perspective, I think I was not only Israeli or Jewish anymore. I was more open ,more universal.

John: You know what I call that? It’s so fascinating you said that because it’s so interesting. When you meet people that never travel out of their own city or country where they grew up, they have a limited view. But because you traveled, you went from like you said, just being an Israeli citizen and now, you became a global citizen.

Oshik: Exactly. For example, when I was in Africa, I’ve seen every day… I’ve been one year in Africa. Every day, I’ve seen the line of women that are going back from the forest with woods on the head and little children on the back. Actually, at the beginning, I thought that it was really romantic. Beautiful thing. They live on a natural way. But then, you start to understand that, actually, they are coming home and when you visit them in there small homes, you see them cook. Actually, you cannot stay for more than one minute. Amazing women because the smoke that the fire is making is actually killing. One hour of cooking is like smoking four hundred cigarettes.

John: Really? Oh my gosh.

Oshik: Then you discover that it’s actually causing the death of four million women and children every year, only from cooking. I discovered that it’s a massive cause of deforestation. Forest is the life of the world. Let me understand that it’s not romantic at all. It’s a community problem and someone needs to do something about it.

John: When did you have the aha moment with your partners? How many partners do you have, Oshik? How many partners do you have?

Oshik: Gladly, we have local partners today. At the beginning when we started the trip, we are three founders. It is in the air. We are good friends. This is very, very unique. We are partners, not only the business but we are also very, very good friends. We share the same values and we share the same vision.

John: Now, how big is this problem? You decided to tackle the food waste industry, the food with the composting issue of recycling food waste. How big is this problem, Oshik, of food waste in Israel and around the world?

Oshik: The food waste, first of all now we are in the time… We are living in a very… This year is a very special year. Actually, 2021 is a turning point on the way we are understanding. The world is understanding the climate change. It’s a turning point. It’s the year where governments, organization, and people understand that the climate change is something real. We need to change our behavior to tackle it. From that perspective, which is the most important one for me, food waste is… Greenhouse gases, the most little greenhouse gas is methane. It’s the strongest, one of the strongest greenhouse gases. Now, seventy percent of the methane is produced from food waste. Seventy percent of the methane is produced from food waste. If you can treat it in a way that will eliminate the methane that comes out of it, the benefit for the planet is huge. Now, another perspective, food waste is just growing year by year. We throw a lot of waste. We throw billions, more than one billion tons of waste a year. The collection of waste…

Now, we are actually… Most of the world is working on the linear economy. You buy the waste from… You buy the food from the supermarket. You eat some of it and then you have food leftover. You have food waste. You throw it to the trash can. Then a truck is coming and pick it up and take it far away. Sometimes, it can drive for four hours to a faraway length field. Actually, most of the waste is going to landfills and it go to the ground. And then the gas, the methane gas is going out to the atmosphere. Now, the solution that HomeBiogas is bringing is transforming from linear economy to circular economy. The food we bought from the supermarket or we even grow ourselves, we eat some of it with. The food leftover, we will put it in the HomeBiogas system? The HomeBiogas system will break down the organic methane and will produce a biogas. The biogas is composed from methane. The biogas we will use for cooking or for heating water so–

John: Let me understand this. You not only remove the methane, which is the harmful part of the food waste, but you’re then creating energy out of it. You’re returning something for beneficial reuse in this planet so we don’t have to further destroy our planet with more non-sustainable energy sources.

Oshik: Exactly. We are tanking the problem and turns it into a solution.

John: I love it. For our listeners in our and in our viewers who just joined us, we’ve got Oshik Efrati with us. He’s the CEO and co-founder of HomeBiogas. You can find home biogas at www.homebiogas.com. Oshik, what year did you found this company? You and your partners, what year did you come up with this idea?

Oshik: We founded the HomeBiogas at 2012.

John: That’s important because you just made a great point that 2021, and I fully agree with you, is our turning point where the world is finally waking up that the science is real. Climate change is real, and we’ve got to do something now before we let this beautiful planet burn down. How were the first nine years? Was it very difficult getting people to listen to you and understand what you’re trying to do, how big the problem was and how good your solution was?

Oshik: That’s a great question. Actually, at the beginning, when I was telling people about what we are going to do, they didn’t really understand. “What? You’re going to produce gas? To do trash cans? What are you going to do?” When you were explaining to them, they will look at you as three-headed or something like that. They don’t really understand. When I’m telling them… I was telling them it’s a new technology that we are developing, it’s a startup. It’s was something strange. We felt and we are still feeling that we are a pioneering that this as huge mission, a huge mission much more bigger than us to do here. It’s a mission-driven company. At the first year, yes, it was hard and the we needed partners. We needed investors. Only people like Ron Gonen and the Closed Loop were tensed enough and open enough with the same mission and the same values. By the way, it’s beautiful to see along this journey how the Closed Loop become big and the impact they are doing. Yes, so I think along with these nine years, almost ten years, we became from pioneer that is pushing our solution. Now, people are looking at us as heroes. It’s very nice because suddenly you get invited to podcast with John and you get invited to meet the Prime Minister.

John: I heard. Congratulations! In the last couple of weeks, you’ve met the Prime Minister. How is that? How did that work? How did that feel?

Oshik: It felt good. It felt really good. Mostly because, for me, the understanding that the leadership of Israel and the leadership of the world, the leadership of the U.S. President Biden now took the in climate change at the top priorities. It’s so important and it’s not only important for us, it’s important for our kids. It’s a very, very good year for this subject.

John: Now, your technology, I assume, is proprietary. It’s something you and your partners invented that doesn’t exist anywhere else right now.

Oshik: Yes, like every technology, of course, there are competitors. Of course, there are alternatives. We bring something very unique and we still invest a lot in innovation. I think it’s in our blood to innovate and improve ourselves.

John: Right. Your great invention, your great company now turns the methane of food waste into an energy source. Have you developed this for a home use, Oshik, or is this for commercial or is this both?

Oshik: We started with the homes. The first mission was to bring solutions to developing countries, in the places where I told you before. Africa, East Asia, those places that they don’t have energy for cooking so they use firewood. The first product that we developed was a HomeBiogas system for families. It’s still very successful. We got customers to use this, the families in more than one hundred countries around the world, probably in Africa and East Asia, in India, Nepal, Mexico, Brazil, the U.S., Australia–

John: Is that the map behind you? Changing people’s lives all over the globe, is that where all your systems are?

Oshik: Yes.

John: Already? All over the place. Wow!

Oshik: Yes, so we started with families and then the next stage was to tackle the problem of industrial kitchen works. Industrial kitchens are responsible for huge amount of food waste. They also need to pay for the collection. The cost of treating the waste is going up year by year and the regulation against taking the organic waste into landfill is become strict. Those industrial kitchens are looking for solutions. Industrial kitchen including the hotels, restaurants, universities, hospitals, they pay a lot for collecting the waste. They also pay a lot for energy. We bring them now a new product. Actually, it’s a new product that we worked on for the last three to four years and just started the implementation of it. It’s a very innovative product, beautiful. We put it near a restaurant or near the industrial kitchen of a hotel, the food will taste is going directly to the biogas system. The biogas system treats it, convert into biogas that goes back to the kitchen as energy, normally, for either heating water or electricity. It’s also producing liquid fertilizer for using it for local use.

John: Are you selling this all around the world now or only in Israel? Is this for sale? If I’m watching you right now from Paris and I have a hotel or restaurant, can I buy your system right now for my restaurant or hotel in Paris?

Oshik: For now, we only launched it in Israel. Next is we’re going to bring it to the U.S. This is the next market. We are going to do it together with the Closed Loop. We already have a very, very interesting projects that we are processing them. A very, very interesting projects. Even project that we haven’t thought that we will do like multi-family houses.

John: If I want to put your system in my house in California just for the home use, when will it be available to homeowners in the United States and other parts of the world to buy for our home use?

Oshik: Now, we have three channels of sales. One is online. You can buy it online. You can all wait and we ship it to you. Secondly, we have distributors that are representing us. Now, we have distributors in twenty countries around the world. Third, we are doing projects with international organizations. It can be like the UN or WWF, but for California for now, you can buy it online.

John: That’s exciting. Take your entrepreneur hat off and put your salesman hat on. Now, when I was going to buy solar for my house, I want to buy it to save the world and plan it, but I also liked that I’m going to save money because now, I’m going to have solar on my house. Is there a similar sales approach to HomeBiogas? Not only am I doing something good for the planet, but will it save my family money or is it cost-neutral? How does that work for a family or a hotel that wants to buy this and thinking about the return on investment for the environment, but for also the organization that buys it?

Oshik: Yes, so the good thing is that it’s not only helping the environment, but it’s also saving costs. The return of investment is normally less than two years.

John: Wow. It’s like solar. You’re really following the same solar model.

Oshik: Yes, we’re working on a Model. That is a win-win for everyone.

John: I love it. I just love it. Wit a second now. You’ve developed this great thing. You’re sitting in Israel. You’ve got all sorts of distribution and sales opportunities. When you and your partner sit in a room together and you dream about how big the problem is and what your solution is, how is this going to work? The problem sounds huge. I mean the problem of food waste sounds massive actually, and it doesn’t get a lot of TV or media attention unfortunately. It’s not very sexy. Talk about your solution and the opportunity to solve this problem over the next ten years.

Oshik: Yes, our mission is to bring a revolution to the existing way of treating waste. Organic waste is only forty or fifty percent of the waste. Once you take care of the organics, the other can be recycled. Actually, it’s part of a bigger revolution of recycling all the waste we are producing. At the beginning, we developed system for developing countries. Now, we took it to institutions. The next stage, we’ll bring it to multi-family houses and to advance houses. Eventually, we want to bring solutions to people to recycle their waste to save money on energy, save money on waste collections, and to make it affordable and available.

John: That’s beautiful. You’re going to democratized the solution. Your system will democratize the food waste problem. It will be the food waste problem solution that you eventually democratize around the world.

Oshik: Once you understand that the food waste has value, you cannot throw it away. It’s like money. It’s only paper. Now, I have here a paper. You don’t throw ten dollars to the garbage like how we throw waste. Why? Because it has value. Once you have the same… Just to understand, one kilogram of waste, which is something like what you have left over from cooking lunch for your family, you can create one hour of cooking gas. From this waste, you can put it in the biogas system. It will produce gas that will enable you to cook one hour. It’s a lot.

John: How about the big waste companies like Waste Management Republic Services? Are they great opportunities for you, too, to work with them so they can recycle food waste on their [inaudible] and other places so they don’t have to throw this into their landfills and take up space in their landfills anymore?

Oshik: Yes. Sure. Sure. All sources of food waste can be treated. Almost all sources of food waste can be treated on site. Eventually, that’s the future. This is where the world will go. There would be no reason to collect it and take it to a landfill.

John: This is going to help shift us, as you said, generationally, from a linear economy, which you and I grew up in, to a circular economy that our children and grandchildren will live in.

Oshik: Yes, exactly. The linear economy has started not long ago and it’s destroyed our planet. We’ll go back to the circular economy with solutions, technological solutions that actually will improve our life, will make it cleaner, and will also reduce cost, that will be more economical.

John: For our listeners and viewers out there, we’re so honored to have with us from Israel today Oshik Efrati, CEO and co-founder of HomeBiogas. You can find HomeBiogas and buy their great products at www.homebiogas.com. Oshik, tell me the truth here. When you and your partners are sitting together over dinner or lunch and you dream about this amazing solution you’ve created, are you going to become the Tesla of food waste recycling?

Oshik: First of all, we have bigger dreams and I believe that we came here to fulfill them. About this, it’s interesting because now, actually, these days, there is the biggest experiment of living on Mars. They took a biogas system to this experiment. You can see astronaut are using HomeBiogas.

John: Come on. Is it SpaceX or which company is using it to go to Mars with? Is there a certain company or a bunch of different–?

Oshik: Actually, it’s a huge project that they chose it, from all over the world, there are participant astronaut that come and they do it in desert in Israel. They use HomeBiogas–

John: That’s exciting. Congratulations! I love it.

Oshik: [inaudible]. Maybe one day we will bring HomeBiogas to Mars.

John: I love it. What’s the next step? What do you want our listeners and viewers to think about? Do you want them to go on your site and buy a system for their house now or do you want if they work in a restaurant or a large facility, a stadium or some other place that creates a lot of waste to contact you? What’s the takeaway for our listeners? If you love to give them points of action, some calls to action to help become part of the solution and to help support your great opportunity and venture.

Oshik: First of all, everything stopped with awareness. Be aware that after we throw the waste and the food waste to the trash can, try to understand where it goes next. Understand the problems it creates if it goes with the truck to a landfill. The next stage is try to find solution to reduce the waste. The next stage, find solutions to recycle it or, even better, upcycle it to use the waste as a source for something new, so the energy or power source as a new raw material. If you need help to recycle your food waste, we are here. We love to help you. It doesn’t matter if you’re a family, a business, a restaurant, a hotel or businessmen that want to create something new with us. We are here to help you.

John: Oshik, what I find with great people like you, great leaders like you, is you’ve mastered a form of courage. Like you said, you learned in the military about courage. Obviously, you’re applying it as an entrepreneur. It takes it takes a lot of courage to do what you’re doing, to not go work for somebody, to actually go try to solve a big problem. Talk a little bit about the courage that you learned about and are exhibiting it in your company. What can our next generation learn from you about when you’re called, when the call comes, because we’re all going to get called in one way, shape or form, how to make sure you’re ready to answer the call? Whether it was when you’re in the military or when you had this epiphany to start home biogas, how do you know how to answer the call? How do you have courage to answer the call?

Oshik: Okay. I think that we came here to this planet to do something meaningful with the years that we got live here. Do something, meaningful, some fun. Sometimes, it will be challenging. Most of the time, it will be challenging. The courage can come only in places where you have fear. Fear is part of the process and the courage is only to help you to go forward, not to stop and go backwards. Now, I think that our generation and even more the young audience that is looking at us, people that finished universities now that are looking for their next career, I think this generation will not go only for a career that will bring or looking for money or I don’t know. I think this generation has now a mission to fix what the old generation has done wrong.

This podcast is about the impact. If you look twenty or thirty years ago, businesses only care about doing money. I think at the beginning of 2000, it was starting to speak about “Do no harm.” Then it became “Do money and do good,” which is now the impact. You can do money and do good. But if it’s not doing good, if it’s not… The impact now in this generation, if it’s not doing good, so you don’t want any part of it. You will not buy those products. You will not support it. This is the future. I think, if I speak, if we have young entrepreneur, so people that are looking for the next career, I think this generation has a mission now to bring solutions to make the world a better place on climate change, on actually a lot of subjects that you can do good. The good news is that there are many opportunities to do good and do money.

John: Oshik, I feel like we really do have a same older brother like in Ron, but I feel so close to you in terms of your mission. You’re so right. The next generation is learning from people like you that it’s more than just a paycheck or profit. It’s about purpose. It’s about purpose and you’re a great example. I can’t wait myself to have a HomeBiogas system at my home and and tell my children about what you’re doing so we get it in their home. I want to thank you for being on today’s show. I love the statement above your head there. Changing people’s lives all over the globe. HomeBiogas’ Oshik Efrati. You can find HomeBiogas and buy his great products or contact him about what you need and what help you need wherever you are on the world at www.homebiogas.com. Oshik, you’re always welcome back on Impact to continue to share your journey. I really wish you all God blessings and I want you to continue your great mission of making a huge impact and making the world a better place. Thank you for joining us today. It’s my total honor.

Oshik: Thank you, John. It was a pleasure for me. Take care. Hope to meet you in person soon. All the best.

John: This episode of the Impact Podcast is brought to you by Closed Loop Partners. Closed Loop Partners is a leading circular economy investor in the United States with an extensive network of Fortune 500 corporate investors, family offices, institutional investors, industry experts and Impact partners. Closed Loop’s platform spans the arc of capital, from venture capital to private equity, bridging gaps and fostering synergies to scale the circular economy. To find Closed Loop Partners, please go to www.closedlooppartners.com.