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National Science Foundation Grant

Posted by richearth on September 7, 2016


We are excited to announce that the Rich Earth Institute has secured $830,000 as part of a $3 million grant in research funding from the National Science Foundation.

As part of an interdisciplinary team led by Nancy Love and Krista Wigginton at the University of Michigan, the Institute will develop and test an array of urine treatment and processing methods. The goal is to determine the most effective, economical, and energy-efficient methods for transforming urine into a safe, practical, and aesthetically pleasing alternative to synthetic fertilizer. Other collaborators include the University of Buffalo, New Water ReSources Inc. and Hampton Roads Sanitation District.

Additionally, social researchers will continue their investigation of attitudes toward urine recycling and the use of urine-derived fertilizers in agriculture. Through surveys and interviews the team will identify the major factors that influence people’s attitudes toward urine recycling. This information will be used to create educational materials to promote public understanding of the benefits of diverting urine from the waste stream for beneficial use in agriculture.

Since 2011, the Rich Earth Institute has operated the nation’s first community-scale urine recycling program. The initiative saves water, reduces pollution of local rivers and streams, and produces sustainable fertilizer for farms. This is accomplished by using waterless toilets and urinals to keep urine out of the wastewater system, and then reclaiming the nitrogen, phosphorus, and other elements for reuse as fertilizer.

Rich Earth local partners are Jay and Janet Bailey of Fairwinds Farm, Jesse Kayan and Cailtyn Burlett of Wild Carrot farm, and Linda and Dean Hamilton at Whetstone Valley Farm. These farmers have participated in field trials measuring the effect of urine-derived fertilizer applied to hayfields. Best Septic owners, Jeff and Lisa Ruggiero of Westminster, and operator Seth True have joined this effort by transporting thousands of gallons of urine each year and by providing urine-collecting portable toilets for public events.

This project would not have been possible without the participation of more than 200 Windham County residents who have collected and donated their urine using special toilets and portable urinals. With this new funding, Rich Earth will be able to expand its groundbreaking project to include more participants and take the research to new levels.

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