You’re a walking urea factory. Could your pee help avert the fertiliser crisis?


“The urine has acquired sufficient vitality inside it to energy this course of by itself,” says Freguia.

These bioreactors are self-powered and can produce liquid fertiliser from urine.

These bioreactors are self-powered and may produce liquid fertiliser from urine.Credit score:Dr Stefano Freguia

The vitality is used to push the urine by means of membranes that filter out the specified nitrogen, phosphate and potassium. The result’s a liquified fertiliser prepared to be used and the recouped urea may be used to fabricate AdBlue, a vital diesel additive that’s more and more costly and scarce.

“In 4 years we’ll get to industrial readiness. And after that, it will likely be a protracted journey of transition to convey these applied sciences into new buildings.”

Freguia and his group will concentrate on rolling the expertise out to council parks and gardens and small-scale city horticulture initiatives earlier than scaling up in line with the hub’s 20 trade companions.

All the standard sort of fertiliser that’s put into the bottom is, by nature, very inefficient due to the soil chemistry.

Ken Hancock, managing director of RFL AgTech

One other early-stage startup with its eyes on wastewater is Australian Hydrothermal, based mostly in Adelaide. Director Dr Benjamin Keiller is concentrated on the potential of hydrothermal carbonisation expertise (HTC). The method sees waste, equivalent to sewage or meals scraps, positioned in water that’s heated past 200 levels however pressurised, so it doesn’t boil.

“Principally, we’re accelerating the coalification course of that happens deep beneath the earth, however as a substitute of doing it over hundreds of thousands of years, we’re in a position to do it in like, an hour,” says Keiller.

The result’s a stable “char” that may be burnt as a low-ash different to coal, buried as a way of carbon sequestration or handled as “biochar” and crumbled into soil, which “dramatically improves” soil high quality.

The leftover liquid is wealthy in nitrogen and can be utilized as a liquid fertiliser.

Keiller and his group are in talks with SoMax, an American HTC firm, with a view to get reactors put in in South Australian wastewater services within the subsequent 5 years.

Urea is critical to the agriculture industry but prices have spiked over the last year and a half amid global turmoil.

Urea is vital to the agriculture trade however costs have spiked during the last yr and a half amid international turmoil.Credit score:Fairfax

In the meantime, different agtech firms are centered on the environment friendly use of fertiliser. Between 60 and 70 per cent of nitrogen is rarely taken up by the goal vegetation.

“Plenty of [fertiliser delivery] expertise hasn’t modified significantly within the final 80 to 100 years,” says Ken Hancock, managing director of RLF AgTech, which provides expertise that exactly delivers fertiliser and micronutrients to crops. “All the standard sort of fertiliser that’s put into the bottom is, by nature, very inefficient due to the soil chemistry.

“We bypass the soil and ship the nutrient straight into the seed and the foliage of the crop. That permits us to scale back the soil-applied fertiliser by about 20 per cent. That, on a macro degree, permits growers to scale back their enter prices and enhance their yields.”

RLF AgTech listed on the ASX 200 in mid-April after an $8.5 million preliminary public providing. Hancock mentioned globally rising fertiliser costs meant growers have been having a “good exhausting look” at their use of urea and different components.

“They do must take up expertise to make their applications extra environment friendly and maintain them worthwhile as a result of fertiliser is essentially the most vital enter price to their program.”

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