Take back your Community with Organics to Energy


A properly deployed Organics to Energy project can empower the citizens of communities large and small.  If the decades ahead move us into a world of numerous facilities on a localized level, one could say history is repeating itself.

Soon after the dawn of the incandescent light in the 1880’s our world witnessed the start of a centralized system for delivering power.  This did not come easy as the race to build the future and make money collided with the personal interests of inventors and scientists.  Once electric light came to be the next step was a distribution system.  The result is what we know as the ‘grid’.

Before the development of our modern utility system power and gas were delivered on a local scale.  The maintenance and operation of these systems was managed on a local or municipal level.  The centralized system brought power to the masses during the great depression of the 1930’s.  Many today feel the grid’s advantages are outweighed by financial or other limiting factors.

Consider for a moment what your community may be like if it controlled its own energy.  In Massachusetts we’ve proven that, when properly deployed, projects using Solar or Wind are a positive for energy delivery, employment opportunity and environmental security.  By and large these projects produce a portion of a host community’s energy needs through various programs like net metering.

Now imagine if municipalities large and small increased their energy independence by converting all local or regional organic waste (agricultural, wastewater, food, etc) into valuable gas energy.  Gas available for use in municipal fleets or to produce electricity.  Consider a situation where each facility is capable of producing other valuable products as a result of one simple but powerful process.Web-manchester

By making use of Organics to Energy development with technologies like Anaerobic Digesters communities can realize a host of such benefits.  Regional or local planning boards can opt to control projects or engage with Design/Build/Own/Operate firms that externalize costs and risks while realizing municipal benefits.

The financial benefits can be significant.  Cities and towns can generate revenue through energy production and by producing valuable fertilizer products while reducing their costs for waste disposal.  The right AD facility can take pressure off of a regional waste water treatment plant, potentially saving municipal and regional entities millions in maintenance and development costs.  This type of savings is also possible in the maintenance and development of landfills.

When coupled with other ‘independence’ projects such as municipal broadband, organics to energy has the potential to empower the people of rural and urban regions alike.  After decades of de-stabilization of labor and energy our communities desire to spurn entrepreneurship while exacting less cost to the environment.

IMG_4556rt-600x600Scott Graves is passionate about helping business owners.  Tune in to his podcast series ‘No Boundaries Radio’ on the No Boundaries Radio Network.  Meet him at the crossroads between strategy and innovation at scott@smgravesassociates.com or twitter @smgcreative. 


Democracy Expressed in Organics to Energy

I’d like to discuss the importance of Organics to Energy O2E) by focusing on it’s potential impact on democracy.

We are currently in an age of disempowerment for a vast portion of the population.  All around the world the promise of prosperity according to our concept of a ‘free market’ has not born fruit for most citizens. Folks representing all stripes find themselves feeling disempowered by a system that has cast them from their job while narrowing future opportunity in a number of strategic ways.  We seem to consistently ignore the fact that the intent of industrialization, an important factor of current glob4041501708_880ccab2cd_oal markets is to replace human labor with technology.  What to do with those lives ‘freed’ from the ‘drudgery’ of their own labor?  We haven’t answered that question.

The disempowerment I describe is exacerbated by the severe lack of capital to start or grow one’s own small business.  No jobs available?  No problem for those of us willing to take risk and grow a new enterprise….unless one does not have access to the resources necessary for self-starting.  Then the medical and education bills pile up.  And the energy bills.  And supposedly it is our patriotic duty to consume more?

article-2262097-16EDE96A000005DC-818_964x638In an age when one has no control over their career, no control over most social problems, no control over major systems or even their very own food supply a feeling of helplessness ensues.  I am here to tell you WE ARE MORE THAN MERE CONSUMERS.

Our position as Organics to Energy Developers came about for a number of factors.

  •  A sincere interest in working towards a more diversified and democratic agriculture and general business community.
  •  To solve several environmental and social problems with one simple process.
  • A desire to work with large and small investors, local banks and vendors with a business model that encourages local control over energy, finance and business.
  • A complete focus on long-term goals.  Our strategic planning and project development purposefully avoids short-term thinking.  Long-term planning is community building by design. 

Nobody desires to be forced to reinvent themselves faster than they could ever realize a goal to fruition.  A short-term approach to business is also a reductive approach to business.  Reducing the number of gainfully employed career oriented people.  Reducing the number of farmers and the capacity of farmers to work oxford_tire_pile_011as stewards of the land.  Reducing the typical person’s ability to realize personal goals in line with and not in spite of  the interests of their greater community.  This type of mindset takes local control away, decimating small communities and their people.  In our mind this is not only unsustainable.  It is also not a ‘free’ market. It is simply undemocratic.

A network of diversified communities with a vibrant business sector breeds a sense of community.  A Sense of Empowerment.  A sense of Creativity.

Organics to Energy projects, when coupled with the right long-term economic development policy can play a prime role in supporting entrepreneurship and local control.

IMG_4556rt-600x600Scott Graves is passionate about helping business owners.  Tune in to his podcast series ‘No Boundaries Radio’ on the No Boundaries Radio Network.  Meet him at the crossroads between strategy and innovation at scott@smgravesassociates.com or twitter @smgcreative.





Organics to Energy: A Small Investors Place in the Sun

The renewable energy segment commonly referred to as Waste-to-Energy or Organics-to-Energy (O2E) promises a compelling combination of benefits to investors and to society.

Diversion of Organic Waste Technologies such as Anaerobic Digestion, Pyrolysis and Composting offer society the opportunity to create a variety of products beneficial to communities. These products include fertilizers, biochar, and renewable forms of energy.  But it doesn’t end there.  By diverting organic wastes such as pre- and post-consumer food, wastewater biosolids and agricultural or other green wastes away from landfills we reduce costs to the taxpayer while generating income from the diversion of waste through multiple revenue streams.47-650x492

Production of Renewable Energy Processing organic waste through Anaerobic Digestion, Pyrolysis and other Organics-to-Energy (O2E) technologies results in two primary forms of renewable energy. Producers and the consumers who support them either generate electricity or biologically derived Biomethane, used as is or further processed into Compressed Natural Gas (BioCNG).  Investors take note: As the US exports more of its own extracted Natural Gas overseas, domestic prices are likely to increase making the need for BioCNG (think large commercial fleets) or BioMethane (used just like natural gas) an even smarter investment.

Improved Food Supply Chain When we discuss the issues facing our food supply we are really discussing a multiplicity of issues.

  • Sourcing food locally to empower communities and reduce carbon footprint.
  • Eliminate need for expensive, proprietary seed/fertilizer/pest and weed reduction systems.
  • Reduce or eliminate need for genetically modified crops for cost as well as environmental reasons.
  • Improve the quality of the fresh food we eat.
  • Improve access to fresh, safe and reliable food for ALL people on a global scale.
  • Better manage our use of natural or chemical nutrient systems for fertilization i.e. improved nutrient management.Wilson-Farm-in-Lexington-Massachusetts

Making use of O2E technologies can reduce or eliminate several of these factors when deployed using lucrative business models.  Nutrients are better managed due to the processing of raw manures and other waste streams into more readily available, therefore manageable forms.  By its very nature, producing fertilizers using O2E technologies empowers regional entrepreneurs to produce revenue on a local scale facility to facility in a replicable and relatively inexpensive footprint.

Based on Solid Science All technology platforms mentioned in this article are based on solid science and simple, elegant engineering. As an example, the precursor technology to our most current form of anaerobic digestion was a result of solutions developed during WWII by American engineers i.e. the tech has been proven and in use around the world for over seven decades.

Preferable ROI Timeframe  While factors including technology, facility footprint, business model, regional marketplace, etc. effect the return on investment expectations for an O2E project, the independently owned and operated facility, particularly one dependent on a diversified set of revenue streams can show a sizable return within a 5-10 year period without grants or subsidies. Even at longer timeframes O2E presents a favorable investment when placed against other beneficial forms of renewable energy such as solar or wind.

Why Should I consider being a part of O2E? Why should the investor appreciate small-scale, replicable facilities of the kind suggested here?  In addition to the reasons stated above consider:

  • Distributed power means local control.
  • Entrepreneurs in Organics to Energy (O2E) are and will employ local talent to build scalable businesses with preferable returns.
  • Small Investor Empowerment (the opportunity for the consumer to make a big difference with smaller individual funding amounts) gives the consumer the power to vote with their pocketbook for a cleaner, smarter and more locally controlled energy grid in an environment robust with entrepreneurship. 


Scott Graves is passionate about helping business owners.  Tune in to his podcast series 
‘No Boundaries Radio’ on the No Boundaries Radio Network.  Meet him at the crossroads between strategy and innovation at scott@smgravesassociates.com or twitter @smgcreative.


Shouldn’t Climate Change Bring Us Together?

DSC_0112 8Shouldn’t an issue like destruction of life on earth bring us together? A discussion of why politics of the oligarchy and corporatism is destroying us.  A discussion of renewed hope and economic opportunity.

How did We get Here  To understand how we got to where we are when it comes to the discussion of climate change it is important to understand how we perceive our environment. Western perception of how we see ourselves in the greater world go back beyond the formation of modern consumerism, itself a movement of the 19th century as rural life transitioned to urban consumer life with industrialization.  Matters of religion have also played a role.  The idea of needing to cleanse oneself, to ‘rise above’ sin, to not give in to ‘natural’ temptations have over many centuries effected where we position ourselves in the environment. These ideas have largely positioned us against our environment.

image005Political ideas like the American Manifest Destiny tied together a political and religious argument for conquering the natural world and any cultural groups who would stand in the way of ‘progress’.  A complex set of phenomenon, no less than the totality of human experience has brought us to where we are.  Where we are is not where we want to be.

The Moral Dilemma  A moral argument behind climate change is being made on both sides.  Those for recognizing the consequences of climate change realize that if in fact we adhere to a fundamental set of morals then the pain of one group of people caused by environmental degradation is the pain shared by us all.  Climate change that destroys the Maldives should be a call to arms for the rest of us to change course.  The opposite argument is being made by those who say sweeping changes to the way we do business, amass wealth, and provide the basics for our families should not be impeded for something which may not even exist.  So who benefits given the real outcome?

25BGPELEAD_1309382fThe argument needs to start where it’s most personal.  Most likely you wouldn’t shit in your own living room.  You also wouldn’t take some of your solid waste from a weekly trash collection, throw in a few chemicals you no longer need and deliver them promptly to your neighbor’s back yard.  Why?  It would be disrespectful to ourselves and to those immediately around us.  Both scenarios may impede our personal or our neighbor’s ability to live a healthy life, to grow food, to live in a politically and socially stable community.  There is also somewhere deep within our conscious a voice that speaks to us.  That voice says to do these things would be wrong.  With this in mind, our ideas regulating personal behavior should encompass an ever-wider circle of people to include cultural groups, nations, and continents.

So why do our efforts to protect our environment stop there?

NIMBY to the Rescue  We in the western world have become experts in externalization.  We keep meat cheap by developing CAFOs.  But the meat produced really isn’t cheap.  The cost is felt by all of us outside of the consumer price for that meat.  The same goes for most of our food.  The same for many of our consumer products.  Same for most of the services we need and desire to offer to others in order to make a living.environment-and-energy-law

Who Benefits from the Course We’re On?

The reality is nobody on the planet benefits from climate change.  But in a corporatized society an ever-smaller number of wealthy individuals can continue to externalize the issues, passing the buck on a growing number of impoverished individuals with little choice in the matter.  In an oligarchy controlled by profit and profit only one can build walls around themselves to control their immediate environment…for a time.  Sooner or later the hurricane will hit, the floods will devastate, the drought will destroy and long before that the peasants may revolt.

An Argument for Change  There is a moral obligation we have to each other and to ourselves to recognize climate change for what it is and take action collectively to make substantive improvements.  There is also a credible argument backed by proof that the economics of climate change can be positive.  Economic benefits from our attempts to mitigate climate change and conserve energy can have a positive effect through entrepreneurship across class and cultural boundaries.DSC_0098

The opportunities for entrepreneurship in renewable energy, energy storage, water quality and distribution, agribusiness and social enterprise plus many more sectors present a real chance for millions of global partners to realize their personal and professional goals in a sustainable manner.  New Businesses around the world most often lead by a new crop of social entrepreneurs who will teach the establishment a new way of doing business.

In a country as polarized as the United States of America climate change should be a topic used to bind us together.  Secularists and the religious, moralists and pragmatists, economists and idealists alike need air, water and a sustainable environmental cycle to survive.  They also need economic opportunity and a renewed focus on moving forward as   a political body, not stuck focusing on the past or on perpetuating economic and political systems that do not benefit the majority.

IMG_1702Climate Change presents an opportunity for our working class and professional class to bind together in order to realize a new economic stream with opportunities for all, based on solid science and a moral code.


DSC_0345Climate Change presents a unique moment; one where we can renew a social compact with each other.  Without it, our present course of profit at all costs will end up destroying us in conflict.  Without a dramatic change the only question will be by what means: armed conflict or environment disaster.

DSC_0080 6Climate change presents a chance for hope.  An opportunity for real change from the bottom up.  A chance to re-think our place on the planet and how we interact with every other living being.


 Additional Resources

TED Radio Hour Podcast ‘The Hackers’ 12.06.13

IMG_4556rt-600x600Scott Graves is passionate about helping business owners.  Tune in to his podcast series ‘No Boundaries Radio’ on the No Boundaries Radio Network.  Meet him at the crossroads between strategy and innovation at scott@smgravesassociates.com or twitter @smgcreative.


Resource for Farmers: Farm Viability Program



Like many industries agriculture is experiencing a transition period.  As baby boomers retire or re-tool for the next stage of life there is opportunity for those interested in entering the field of farming.  This shift coupled with an increase in market opportunities due to phenomenon such as the localvore movement and waste to energy have opened the door to many individuals to return to or enter fresh the fields of farming and agribusiness.

Whether you represent the next generation of your family’s farm or have successfully parlayed your earnings in another field into farm ownership you should know a number of key programs and resources available to you to optimize your success.

79845Grandpa_s-Big-Tractor-150x150The Farm Viability Program provides authority for the Secretary of Agriculture (USDA) to provide grants to eligible entities for the purpose of carrying out farm viability programs.  There is a state program in your neck of the woods such as those in the SMG market area such as Vermont and Massachusetts.

The Program offers farmers environmental, technical and business planning assistance to expand, upgrade and modernize their existing operations. Capital for the implementation of improvements recommended in the viability plan is available in exchange for an agricultural covenant on the farm property for a fixed term of five or ten years.

800px-Intensive_apple_orchardMassachusetts Farm Fact: 20% of Mass Farms are located in Worcester County

Working with professionals with sales, marketing, planning and distribution experience farmers can devise and execute plans to increase the profitability of their products and services, introduce new products and services and ensure that the support structure is in place (both human and product) to ensure the long-term success of your farm.

Vermont Farm Fact: Total land in Farms: 1.2mm acres, average farm: 177 Acrestflo

Every successful business owner understands their strengths and weaknesses.  They secure relationships with those individuals who, as a team build the successful business lead by the owner.  FARMING IS NO EXCEPTION.

In addition to the Farm Viability Program there are a number of other programs such as those found on the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture webpage. Programs include:

  • Agricultural Energy Grant Program (Ag-Energy)
  • Agricultural Environmental Enhancement Program (AEEP)
  • Matching Enterprise Grants for Agriculture Program (MEGA)
  • APR Improvement Program (AIP)
  • Farm Energy Discount Program
  • Farm Viability Enhancement Program (FVEP)
  • Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program (MEFAP)

Several of these programs will be explored in detail in future SMG blog posts.Wilson-Farm-in-Lexington-Massachusetts

IMG_4556rt-600x600Scott Graves is passionate about helping business owners.  His firm helps new and experienced farmers navigate grant programs, build markets for products and access waste to energy projects.  Tune in to his podcast series ‘No Boundaries Radio’ on the No Boundaries Radio Network.  Meet him at the crossroads between strategy and innovation at scott@smgravesassociates.com or twitter @smgcreative.


Is It Hard to be a Game Changer?

It is a challenge to bring a game changing product or service to market.  While all entrepreneurship is a challenge a product or service that is both new and a perceived threat to an entrenched industry presents its own set of challenges.blue_ocean

While we at SMG like to swim in a blue ocean over a red ocean we recognize the unique set of personal and professional challenges the entrepreneur must face when his/her product stands to unseat a powerful and embedded industry.

Having a plan is important.  But a plan alone is not enough.  You’ve got to be like Benedict Arnold.

benedictarnold11You’re scratching your head.  Most Americans are  aware only of General Arnold’s last infamous act.  This is one of American history’s most unfortunate slights.


Arnold’s forces delayed his adversaries and took a beating to ensure long-term success the following year. How is your leadership navigating your firm against those who would have you defeated?

Prior to providing the British forces with vital information regarding West Point, Benedict Arnold was our fledgling republic’s most daring and celebrated officers.  His performance in the field speaks for itself: Ticonderoga, Quebec, Saratoga.  While Colonel he successfully seized Fort Ticonderoga followed by an excursion up the Kennebec River with 1400 men surviving near starvation in an attempt to take Quebec and later maintain forces at Montreal.  The following summer Arnold, now General lead a small fleet on Lake Champlain; built the fleet in a matter of months and stalled the entire british Northern Army long enough for American forces to regroup, eventually leading to Burgoyne’s defeat the following year at Saratoga.  All the while eliciting the jealousy and contempt of Congress and less capable officers because he was of lower birth than they and a better leader.  Though a staunch supporter of American ideals to the end Arnold’s infamous act came in 1780.  It is suggested due to the constant insults to his character and his pocketbook that came in the face a lot of self-sacrifice.

Minus his treason what Arnold exemplified you need to embody for success with your new business.

  • Complete knowledge of your capabilities and industry.
  • A clear vision for the possible (what will our success look like).
  • Undaunted tenacity.
  • Consistent time spent anticipating your adversary’s next steps.
  • Executing your strategy with complete follow-through and with post-performance assessment.

When Your Innovation is a Threat to the Establishment

Working backwards from your potential client/final sale understand the friends along the way you need in support of your efforts.  These people will include regulators, politicians, funders and other business professionals.  You need to align yourself with business people whose financial and political prowess will be a benefit to you.

As cynical as it may sound, you need more than your unshakable morals and positive energy to overcome all takers.  While most people are threatened by regulators and permitting/licensing processes, your transparency in this process, not to mention awareness for when to talk to regulators vs. when to talk to politicians can win you friends in the right places.

Assuming you have a rock solid business plan and the right funding in place you need the additional strategic capital that allows you to anticipate your challengers moves.  You need to spend real time thinking about who will challenge your next move, what you will do to counter that effort and what is your goal getting out of that maneuver.  For every scenario you anticipate another you didn’t will occur.  Without any plan or time spent thinking about it you’ll be less capable of dealing with issues.

Everyone has their limits.  Even Benedict Arnold’s successes on the field couldn’t make up for the political and financial hits that lead him astray.  Understand your limits and whenever possible focus on activities that push you forward with a sale rather than those that focus on the past.

If you believe in your heart you are right remain undaunted.  You owe the world your innovation.  Remember, you are a game changer.kingsknightchesssetnn2600


Scott Graves is passionate about helping business owners.  Tune in to his podcast series ‘No Boundaries Radio’ on the No Boundaries Radio Network.  Meet him at the crossroads between strategy and innovation at scott@smgravesassociates.com or twitter @smgcreative.


Waste2Wealth: BioChar’s Big Dilemma


BioChar represents a big leap forward in the global effort to reduce our carbon footprint and provide a foundation for a much larger global organic fertilization movement.  Talk with a bunch of greenbacks around the campfire; around the water cooler surrounded by a bunch of biochar entrepreneurs or a group of engineers from one of our top schools and nobody can seem to find anything wrong with BioChar.  SO WHAT’S THE PROBLEM? Continue reading


Thoughts on the Future of Energy Production with Melissa Chan

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Our latest guest on No Boundaries Radio is Melissa Chan.  Currently on staff for the international consulting firm Navigant, Melissa’s work focuses on how energy utilities make decisions for improvements to infrastructure, increasing or decreasing load capacity, or making improvements through smart grid technology. Electricity-Prices Whether you’re a resident or business owner electricity, how its produced and how it is delivered effects you. Continue reading