A Sustainable Technology for distributed, on-site sanitation.
We make Microbial Fuel Cells, which break down organic waste and generate energy, an application suited for basic sanitation
I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.
Start-Up (a pilot that has just started operating)
Annual budget in 2017 (USD)
Number of beneficiaries impacted so far
Headquarters location: Country
Headquarters location: City
Location(s) of impact
US: Hoosick Falls, NY
Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?
Microbial Fuel Cell technology mimics mother nature. We have spent the last five years on biochemistry and advanced materials R&D. Microbes break down organic matter and generate energy. Wastewater treatment, desalination, and waste to energy are energy-intensive and inefficient. We provide a new solution to these technologies. We can treat human and organic industrial waste and generate while we generate energy. For low-tech economies, that energy is enough to provide lighting and other needs.
Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?
Our proposed solution is to provide basic sanitation in areas where they are currently relying on open latrine pits. Rather than relying on long-term plans for very advanced "Reinvented Toilets" that are extremely expensive, we can provide waste treatment that doesn't contaminate ground-water and create local health issues, while we generate energy for individuals in the community.
We do not have an existing pilot for this application (our pilot is in industrial WWT); however we recently went through a lengthy process examining what it would take to bring safer sanitation to communities in areas without modern sanitation. This was initiated by a large NGO that works with a global philanthropy that we cannot mention due to an NDA. However, we spent quite a bit of time specifying how our existing technology could be adapted to this application. Human waste is an energy source, and it can be applied to impact both human health and safety, and provide energy.
Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work
Our focus is on industrial wastewater treatment. However, we became excited about providing a relatively inexpensive sanitation solution. The science behind our technology is well studied for decades, though no one could figure out how to scale the science. We have unique capabilities in biochemistry and materials science. Two other companies (highly capitalized at $100M dollars) tried and failed. We are a small company - our total fundraising is $800K over 5 years, but we have developed a scalable manufacturing platform for the technology. We are not bench scale; We're ready to scale. The technology is a platform for waste-to-energy, water treatment, and energy-positive desalination. Our pilot is at a brewery and is focused on larger-scale wastewater treatment. However, we can generate significant energy to light homes and/or provide cell-phone charging, for example while treating human and other organic waste. The solution is inexpensive, flexible to deploy and energy positive.
Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?
We have had a number of discussions with Factor-E, a US based venture firm focused on sustainability, energy, and emerging economy issues. They have indicated a lot of interest in our technology, specifically focused on emerging economy needs. We are also aware of a number of grantors. What we haven't have is the access t o communities and local governments that would be necessary to develop this application. We are aware of a number of other funding organizations that would be enthusiastic for this effort.
We are pre-revenue currently so could not fund this effort from earned income.
Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?
We have a sanitation solution that treats human and organic waste and also generates energy for a community. A key point about the energy that we generate: there are hundreds of company that generate energy out of waste via greenhouse gases. Creating methane from organic waste and then combusting it is energy-inefficient, as well as contributing to climate change. MFC's are a much more sustainable solution: the (naturally occurring microbes) generate direct current, not greenhouse gases.
Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.
Our founder, Brent Solina, was a junior in college when he learned about this technology and the science behind it; he was attending Rensselaer Polytechnic University studying Biochemistry and was completely entranced. He began experimenting and doing small scale R&D in his apartment. After he graduated he started the company full time. A group of Angel Investors (with backgrounds in science ) saw his passion and ability and decided to fund the company, to bring the technology forward. We understood the potential to change the dynamic for multiple large-scale applications that use a lot of energy. The company and the shareholders are committed to making a difference for the planet and for many communities around the globe.
Where did you hear about the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Prize?