This “processing unit”, inaugurated Friday in Loupiac-de-la-Réole, 60 km south-east of Bordeaux, houses dozens of 1,000-litre plastic tanks and large tanks connected to pipes, where bacteria ferment in human urine collected at Futuroscope, on Vinci motorway rest areas, surrounding high schools or music festivals.
“Urine is a support, it is the bacteria that will act in the field”, explains in the hangar a logistics production manager from Topi (from the English “To pee”, to pee, and from the French toupie, ” for the circular economy side”, we explain).
“In five years, we hope to have installed 20 factories like this in France, at the interface of the big cities, where the volumes of urine are available, and the countryside, where we need fertilizer” , announces Michael Roes, its young president and founder (33 years old). He is counting on a turnover in France of 80 million euros by this time.
According to him, “recycling human excrement is one of the levers of sustainable agriculture”, because it is part of a virtuous circle.
When plants, which need nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to grow, or animals that ingest them are eaten by humans, they excrete these nutrients, mostly through urine. If it is collected and valued, the cycle begins.
For a long time, urban excrement was also used in the fields, before being supplanted by chemical fertilizers.
“We are the only ones on the world market to have a technique for recycling urine, for economically viable agricultural purposes”, and which makes it possible to reduce the carbon footprint of agriculture and soil pollution, assures the ‘AFP Mr. Roes. “And without producing waste”, a liter of urine giving as much natural fertilizer.
– “On all fronts” –
“The annual production of a factory like this makes it possible to reduce the share of mineral fertilizers by 20% over an area of 60,000 hectares”, with equivalent yield and a lower cost and a lower environmental impact, he says. .
The ecological gain comes in particular from the fact of using less gas, a fossil fuel, to produce nitrogen fertilizer. For phosphate and potassium, this also means less mining, a highly polluting industry, and less discharge into runoff water because Topi ensures that with its products, the plant fixes 100% of the available nutrient, which it does not do with mineral fertilizers, which are sometimes found in rivers, favoring the appearance of green algae, for example.
For Alain Rousset, PS president of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region, which has been helping Toopi organics since its creation in 2019: “We win on all fronts because the manufacture of nitrogen fertilizer has a huge energy cost and in addition we import it” .
And with the war in Ukraine and the sanctions against Russia, the prices of gas and fertilizers have soared, making the question of their food sovereignty more pressing for countries.
In another building, officials show the waterless urinals that collect the raw material. Including a female urinal. “School girls asked to have theirs because they wanted to participate in the collection operation”, explains one of the 22 employees of Topi, who will be 250 within 5 years if Michael Roes’ projects are realized.
The young boss assures that “today, we can no longer afford to pee in drinking water”. He claims to be able to collect 3 million liters of urine per year. More than enough to meet its production needs.
While he is shortly awaiting a marketing authorization, the first 250,000 liters that will come out of the Loupiac-de-la-Réole site, i.e. the first year of production, have already been sold, he welcomes. he.