The (Not So Sweet) Smell of Success
By Patrick Brethour
TURNING HUMAN WASTE INTO FERTILIZER
But does it smell?
By now, Phillip Abrary is resigned to that nose-wrinkling question when people first find out what his company does, namely turn the liquid goo from sewage treatment plants into a valuable – and soon to be scarce – phosphorous fertilizer. The first, and understandable, reaction is that the product made by Ostara Nutrient Recovery Technologies Inc. must carry some sort of lingering stink. “You tell people, this came from poop, there’s always a natural inclination to think so,” he says.
In reality, the only odour emanating from Vancouver-based Ostara’s high-grade fertilizer is the smell of money. Phosphorous is a key component in fertilizer and, as such, a pillar that props up global agricultural output. However, as my colleague Mark Hume described earlier this week, traditional mined phosphorous production is headed toward a cliff: Output may peak as early as 2035, and would plummet after that. Already, China (one of just three producers) has put enormous export tariffs on its phosphate production in order to make sure its supplies stay in the country.
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