Innovator of the Week: Shawn Leggett Upcycles Coffee Grounds and Brewery Grains to Make Food and Cosmetics

GroundUp eco-ventures hopes to raise more venture capital to increase production capacity and processing of upcycled ingredients.

Shawn Leggett. Photo by Heather Saitz.

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Shawn Leggett hates the idea of waste. So much so that he discards even the word itself. “I don’t call it waste, I call it byproducts,” says Leggett. “We create tons of byproducts from existing processes. The brewing of beer, makeup, coffee, baby carrots, potato chips, all this stuff.”

There’s an environmental advantage of course, because byproducts have to go somewhere. But there’s also the nutritional side. “A lot of the byproducts from food processes are actually higher in nutrition than the actual products we eat,” says Leggett. “There’s also a growing population and we have to figure out how to feed them, and you can either do that through increasing intensive farming, or you can just make better use of your resources.”

To upcycle byproducts like coffee grounds from coffee producers and brewers grains from local breweries, Leggett opened a 4,000-square-foot, zero-waste facility for his company, GroundUp eco-ventures, in Okotoks in 2021. The facility produces delicious flours, baking mixes and sustainable oils for consumers. Nowadays, he’s branching out even further, producing more foodstuffs, as well as cosmetics through the production of spent grain wax, a functional ingredient in moisturizers and skin cream that Leggett says makes GroundUp the only manufacturer making spent grain wax in North America.

“In order to move forward and continue innovating like we are — both on the technology side but also on a food side — we’re looking at multiple streams for what we can upcycle, moving beyond spent grains and spent coffee grounds into everything from wine crush to juice, pulp waste and beyond,” says Leggett.

During the next three to six months, Leggett hopes to raise more venture capital to increase GroundUp’s production capacity, processing and to assist with his plans to open a facility in the U.S. in Q1 of 2025.

[Note: An earlier version of this story included a dollar figure for GroundUp’s venture capital goal.]

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