Profit from pee and poo

Urine can be a very good replacement of fertilizers and a city-based entrepreneur is promoting this cause

Published: 08th March 2017 10:59 PM  |   Last Updated: 17th July 2017 03:25 PM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

BENGALURU: It’s been referred to as the ‘Liquid Gold’ by many and is widely used by farmers in certain countries yet not many know that urine can be a fertilizer and soil conditioner. A number of organizations abroad are experimenting using them in place of harmful chemical fertilizers.
Chandrashekhar Hariharan, a city-based economist turned entrepreneur, is known for his sustainable development initiatives. However, for a while now he has been trying to convince a number of organizations in the city such as schools to help the cause of farmers by suggesting they set up dedicated and organized urine collection facilities.

Soil Conditioners
“Urine has the essential things that earth needs as soil conditioners.To give an example, for every one litre of urine we mix it with 150 ml of magnesum oxide. This mixture gets converted into crystals that can be sent out to farms. The magnesium oxide is available in the market at only about `20 per kilo. So literally no investment is required,” he says.

Chandrashekhar says that he has already spoken to around 4 schools in the city and even people at the Karnataka State Cricket Association. “I have been trying to persuade people at the KSCA to help in the initiative. For a match on an average there are as many as 40,000 people who come. Even if 20 per cent of them use the toilet, say around 8,000 people it might lead to about 200 ml of urine per person and about 1,600 litres of urine that can then be converted into the crystals,” he says. The potential according to him is huge with minimal investment and work only at collection, eliminating the ordor and making it into easily transportable crystals. Besides the KSCA, Chandrashekhar has also spoken to schools such as NPS North, Army Public School and a few others. Manju Arif, principal at NPS North confirmed that the management of the school and Chandrashekhar had had talks a while ago on this particular aspect although she says that she is not privy to the details.

Manjula Raman, principal, Army Public School welcomed the initiative and says her school was ready to be a part of any initiative that would “do good to society.” She however, cautioned, “We are hoping that this does not require too much of investment,” she says.

Two firms in the city are pursuing business opportunities in human faecal sludge

A project to promote business opportunities from human feces might seem odd and uninviting but this is what an organisation that develops innovative social enterprises, Enviu is looking at. It has partnered with two city based firms.

About three months ago, Enviu received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and started a program called SaniNation to develop businesses in the specific field of faecal sludge management (FSM).

Tide Technocrats and DEWATS Dissemination Society (CDD) were the two companies chosen under the programme.

The former has been in the waste management business for 22 years. N Sampath Kumar, MD, Tide Technocrats, says they have been doing work in feacal sludge management for the past 2 years and are still trying to understand how it works.

"We are trying to develop certain technologies. As of now I see two possible revenue models - one is from converting the sludge into products such as compost, bio-gas and the other is usage of water derived from the feacal sludge," he says.

DEWATS Dissemination Society (CDD) is a consortium of  organizations and individuals that develops and promotes decentralized basic needs services such as wastewater treatment, solid waste management, sanitation infrastructure. In 2015, it started a faecal sludge treatment plant in Devanahalli. Before this, the organization carried out two surveys in Hassan, Mysuru based on faecal sludge management. Besides the two firms, Enviu is also in talks with a companies in Pune, Hyderabad and Warangal.

Dylan D'Costa, director (India) for SaniNation says that they are looking at tying up with "five business units" over the course of three years. Dylan also pointed out that profits depended on each individual business model. A firm might get as much as 1 million liters of feacel sludge per day. Based on this one can produce say 10 tonnes of reusable fuel, he says. The cost would also be competitive and would vary according to various parameter, adds D'Costa. "In three years we are looking to build at least three viable business. We want to make make people see that money can be made from faecal sludge," he says.  Besides, this would also help in more hygienic and scientific treatment of fecal sludge in the country, he adds. (EOM)

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