Converting animal dung into water to solve agriculture problem
The Swiss agritech (agriculture technology) company Bluetector AG, founded in 2012 by a wastewater veteran, invented a ground-breaking technology for a sustainable solution to the manure problem. The first commercial system, converting manure into water on a purely biological basis, is now in operation on a livestock farm in Germany, leading the path for further expansion.
In limited quantities, dung is a valuable fertiliser for farmers. However, research estimates that by 2030, the planet will be generating 40% more animal waste compared to 2003. This is a serious environmental and health problem, as too much manure is discharged to groundwater and rivers. Bluetector solves this major issue with a turnkey system for manure treatment. The low-cost technology developed at the Lucerne Technopark converts large quantities of manure into water ideal for irrigating cultivable land.
How it works
Bluetector's compact container-based BlueBox plant converts the manure from pigs and other animals into water containing only traces of nitrogen and phosphorus. This makes the sewage usable for irrigation or other applications without any additional treatment. The liquid nitrogen is converted into elemental atmospheric nitrogen in the bioreactor, similar to a regular sewage plant. The nitrogen in the liquid phase is reduced by an average of 95%.
Thanks to Bluetector’s BlueBox and with the help of 60 tonnes of pig manure, a total of up to 1,300 cubic metres of treated water can be applied to a single hectare every day. Other biological processes for manure treatment on the market can only be applied for around 100 cubic metres of effluent per hectare.
At the end of 2020, the company put its first commercial manure treatment plant into operation at a livestock farm in Germany.
Why is animal dung a problem?
The amount of manure and biogas digestate worldwide has increased for years, making it one of the central problems of agriculture. More and more regions no longer have enough cultivable land to spread all the manure produced every day without polluting the environment too much with nitrogen, mostly in the form of nitrates.
The Swiss converting process not only significantly reduces the amount of arable land required for spreading, but also significantly reduces the pollution of groundwater and the emission of greenhouse gases - all at a price that is much lower than having to transport the manure over hundreds of miles.
Failure leads to new idea
The original idea of CEO David Din back in 2012 was to tackle the challenge of treating wastewater from mobile toilet cabins. After several years and almost CHF 4 million of investment, a solution was not in sight. But thanks to that failure, the team around Din was able to find a much better solution for livestock manure.
The big potential of Bluetector’s system for agriculture has not gone unrecognised: Din has been selected to join the Swiss National Startup Team for Venture Leaders China 2020. His firm was also selected as one of the 2019 FoodTech 500 by Forward Fooding.
According to their plans, Bluetector is now aiming to expand the business to the United States and other regions.