Surveying the Landscape
We wanted to discover which recent technical advances could help address the problem of pit filling. Our theory was that there would be relevant research and development aimed at other purposes which we could apply to address our challenge.
Based on what we already knew, we set up five hypotheses for new ways to enhance digestion of waste material in latrines:
- Predation (using higher organisms to feed on the bacteria and other organic matter in faeces)
- Adding novel organisms or enzymes to target slow-to-degrade or undegraded substrates of latrine content
- Using biomass conversion to recover value from latrine contents
- Stimulating endogenous bacteria to break down contents more efficiently
- Using physico-chemical methods to reduce waste accumulation.
Based around these hypotheses, we structured an extensive search of recent scientific and patent literature for any evidence to support their validity and feasibility. By analysing a wide range of papers and patents, we assessed the potential of each approach for application to the problem of pit filling.
The Lead Hypotheses
Our Technology Landscaping Report found evidence for most of the hypotheses. The most fruitful and immediately applicable approaches came from the predation hypothesis and that of adding novel micro-organisms and enzymes.
Our hypotheses around using biomass conversion for value recovery and stimulating endogenous bacteria also suggested promising ideas which we’re actively considering. The only hypothesis which didn’t yield possible routes forward was the use of physico-chemical methods to reduce waste accumulation.
All the methods identified, although intrinsically effective, had limitations which would prevent their immediate application for our purpose. So the study formed one of the major platforms from which we launched our innovation activities.
Springboards for Innovation
We’re taking ideas forward from the predation and exogenous micro-organisms/enzymes hypotheseswithin our innovation portfolio.
When we have insights from our scientific research into the optimal microbial composition for effective latrines, we will review the potential of stimulating endogenous micro-organisms.
We’re also pursuing biomass conversion for value recovery through one novel route, turning Black Soldier Fly larvae into animal feed or biodiesel.