Toopi Organics was created in 2019 after a meeting between three entrepreneurs. Matthieu Préel, manager of the company “Un Petit coin de Paradis” was daily confronted with the problem of recycling human urine. Through his dry toilet rental business, he has to pay to dispose of the urine he has collected. Michael Roes, founder of a biological fertiliser company, and Pierre Huguier, a doctor in soil ecotoxicology, have therefore developed a microbiological process to recycle urine into products for agriculture and industry. The company is currently developing its first product and hopes to have it on the market in the first half of 2022.
Eco-design by developing a low-tech system for urine recovery.
Industrial and territorial ecology through the linking of different actors in the same territory. Upstream actors for the collection of urine and downstream actors for whom the products are intended.
Recycling of urine and its use as an agricultural input.
To listen to Benjamin present the project, you can watch the video at the bottom of the article!
Urine is actually seen as a waste product. It is eliminated via toilets and then treated with all sewage in purification plants. However, this current model has its limits. It poses problems for the sustainable management of water resources. On average, a flush consumes 9 litres of drinking water, which represents 10,000 litres per year and per person, or 20% of our annual water consumption.
When water is treated in wastewater treatment plants, ⅔ of the nitrogen is released into the air and ⅓ into the water. Only 5% of the nitrogen in sewage sludge is recycled, which means that most of the nitrogen ends up in the wastewater. It should be noted that all the nitrogen consumed by humans is excreted, which represents 5 kg of nitrogen per person in one year. Because of its high nitrogen content, sewage sludge is the cause of eutrophication.
Urine is mainly composed of water and contains a triptych of minerals that are very interesting for agriculture: the NPK triptych. Urine contains a significant concentration of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K), which play an important role in soil fertilisation.
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Toopi Organics sees itself as the final player in the urine recovery chain. One of the challenges is to collect a significant quantity of high-quality urine. Urine collection is currently done locally and is set up with various partners: WCLoc, local partners: WCLoc, local authorities via the installation of dry urinals (male and female) in Langon and La Réole and medical analysis laboratories in Gironde. Other collection sites are being considered to recover large volumes: establishments open to the public (ERP), and toilets at motorway or construction site rest areas, for example.
To ensure that the urine is of good quality, the Toopi Organics team adds lactic acid to the urine collection tanks. Lactic acid stabilises the urine and the degradation of urea into ammonia, a molecule that is responsible, among other things, for unpleasant odours.
To ensure that the urine is of good quality, the collectors must carry out the following checks before shipping: pH test at different depths of the tank, colour test, etc. If all the conditions are correct 24 hours before shipping, the urine can be shipped.
To ensure that the urine is of good quality, the collectors must carry out the following checks before shipping. If all the conditions are correct 24 hours before shipping, the urine can be shipped. Further tests are carried out on receipt of the product. If the urine is not of the expected quality, it is sent to a treatment plant for processing.
The recovery of urine into biostimulant is done in a low-tech process. A bacterial strain of interest and a carbon source are inoculated into the urine, which is kept at 30 to 40°C. This low-tech process ultimately makes it possible to offer a product whose purchase cost is much lower than the current market price.
Urine reclamation has a number of advantages as it leaves the water treatment process. Firstly, the use of waterless urinals, which are necessary for urine recovery, enables a more sustainable management of water resources.
In addition, taking urine out of the water cycle can solve the problem of its disposal in wastewater treatment plants. It is still complicated to treat urine properly, particularly because of its high nitrogen concentration, which is responsible for eutrophication. Finally, the urine recovery process is low-tech, consuming very little energy.
The combination of the use of human urine and this low-tech process makes it possible to offer farmers a much cheaper product.
Toopi Organics expects to have its first product on the market in the first half of 2022.
The processing capacity of the current plant is 400,000 litres, the next one will have a capacity of 2 million litres. Toopi Organics aims to develop its model throughout the country with the installation of processing sites in areas with more than 1 million litres of collection. Harvesting will take place within a 200km radius of the plant to avoid transport costs and pollution.
Toopi Organics wants to diversify its product range over the years.