A French startup is creating fertilisers and growth mediums using human urine harvested from special toilets
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Spotted: Urine is rich in nitrogen and phosphorus and has been used in the past to help plants grow. Today, urine has the potential for use in agriculture as liquid fertiliser to replace industrial fertiliser – a potential improvement in sustainability. Now, a French startup called TOOPI Organics is working to make this a reality with an entirely new approach. The process begins by collecting urine using waterless urinals set up in public places.
The collected urine is first stabilised and then sanitsed before being used as a growth medium for a specific strain of Lactobacillus paracasei. The result is a microbial-based fertiliser, dubbed Lactopi Start, which is naturally rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and growth factors. It has been demonstrated to improve the plants’ capacity to absorb nutrients naturally present in nature.
According to TOOPI, Lactopi Start improves the efficiency of soil phosphorus assimilation, stimulates plant roots and supports the robust growth of seedlings. It also preserves soil quality. It can be used in place of commercial plant fertilisers and has a much lower carbon footprint than commercial products as it is produced in an energy and resource efficient process. The process is also local – the urine is collected in urban areas and bioproducts are distributed in nearby rural areas.
Commercial fertiliser may be good for plant growth on farms, but runoff of the nutrient-rich products can cause a great deal of environmental damage. On top of this, researchers have found that manure and synthetic fertilisers emit the equivalent of 2.6 gigatonnes of carbon per year – more than global aviation and shipping combined. It’s therefore no wonder that we are seeing a number of innovations aimed at tackling this. These include extremophile applied to seeds, a new way to produce sustainable biofertiliser on-site, and a pilot plant for green ammonia production.
Written By: Lisa Magloff