NPHarvest raises €2.2M to develop recycling nutrients from wastewater

18-04 | |
Juho Uzkurt Kaljunen, CEO and founder of NPHarvest. - Photo: Kristian Presnal
Juho Uzkurt Kaljunen, CEO and founder of NPHarvest. - Photo: Kristian Presnal

Finnish startup NPHarvest, a spin-off from Aalto University, has raised €2.2M to take its proprietary nutrient catcher machine to the market. The round was led by Nordic Foodtech VC, with participation from Stephen Industries and Maa- ja vesitekniikan tuki ry. The round consists of a €1.3M equity investment and a €900.000 grant from the Finnish Ministry of the Environment and their RAKI program.

NPHarvest has developed a novel and soon patented hardware solution for collection and recycling of nutrients from wastewater. With the new funding, NPHarvest is going to build the first commercially ready Nutrient Catcher, ready to be installed in their clients’ facilities. Thanks to the process’ modular design, the Nutrient Catcher can scale to different use cases and fit different facilities while keeping the production costs as low as possible.

“Our process is much more energy and cost-efficient and easier to operate than the current solutions. Our end product is ammonia salt, which is commonly used in the fertilizer industry. We are very excited about bringing this technology to the market after years of research and development, bringing sustainable and affordable recycled nutrients and fertilizers to the market,” says Juho Uzkurt Kaljunen, CEO and founder of NPHarvest.

Nutrient leaching

Nutrient fertilizers are vital for securing food production. However, excessive amounts of fertilizers, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, end up in the environment via wastewater or through nutrient leaching from agricultural areas. Both cause pollution of the ground and eutrophication in seas and lakes, which in turn causes overgrowth of algae and weeds, especially toxic blue-green algae, depleting oxygen and killing animal life. Wastewater is also responsible for around five percent of all greenhouse gas emissions.

The entire water management market in Europe is estimated to be worth around 170 billion euros

Losing valuable nutrients in wastewater is a missed opportunity for the whole agricultural ecosystem. Fertilizer prices are volatile and they need to be imported from abroad, decreasing self-sufficiency. The inability to remove excess nutrients from the ecosystem will also gradually lead to soil contamination, as farmers prefer using fossil-based mineral fertilizers or nutrient-rich manure. However, too much nutrients might actually result in nutrient deficiencies in plants.

Valuable nutrients

NPHarvest’s hardware can catch up to 90 percent of the excess but valuable nutrients from wastewater. Once the technology has separated the nutrients, they can be taken back to the fertilizer companies. NPHarvest’s process also uses very little energy, as it doesn’t require heating or pressure increase, reducing the costs of the process even further.

“No one has done nutrient catching on a real commercial level, which made us as foodtech investors impressed with NPHarvest and its unique technology. Ensuring food security while protecting the environment is one of the top priorities in the food system. NPHarvest´s technology has what it takes to combine these aspects in a very interesting business model,” says Mika Kukkurainen, Partner at Nordic Foodtech VC.

Two patents pending

NPHarvest has two patents pending and is gearing up towards building its first products, ready to be installed at wastewater management facilities. Their main customers are wastewater management plants, biogas plants, and livestock farms that are trying to cut their costs, reduce their carbon footprint, or earn extra income from recycled fertilizer sales.

“The entire water management market in Europe is estimated to be worth around 170 billion euros, and the concentrated water management market in the EU is worth approximately 47 billion euros. We are excited to enter the next stage of our company’s journey together with our investors, enhancing food security, creating better environmental impacts, and making wastewater management and nutrient catching a profitable business,” concludes Kaljunen.

Ed Asscheman Online editor Future Farming