My award-winning technology is helping cities turn the pollutants in their waste streams into a high-demand resource — phosphorus for agricultural fertilizer.
More than 15 years ago, I embarked on a research project that was inspired by two separate organizations in the British Columbia community. At almost the exact same time, BC Hydro approached us looking for sustainable sources of phosphorus for restoring productivity in water bodies affected by dams, and Metro Vancouver asked for help solving a plugging problem in the city’s pipes.
The projects fed off of each other and led us to build the best mousetrap for solving both problems at once. We patented our technology and spun it off into Ostara Nutrient Recovery Technologies, which now employs 40 people and has established 14 commercial nutrient recovery facilities throughout North America and Europe, with more planned.
Our customers get two benefits with this one technology. It solves in-plant plugging and other problems caused by nutrients in their liquid waste systems, and it produces an eco-friendly fertilizer that they can sell for profit.
As an engineer, my job is to dig deep to find innovative solutions for society’s problems. For this project, we had to go backward before we could go forward. We worked with chemists to truly understand the fundamental science behind the problem. It was only after we had this knowledge that we were able to design the right system.
Often the best solutions to complex problems come from curiosity-based research.