From Brown to Green
Organic looping: Compact, decentralized waste treatment and food production system
Creating a full cycle, on-site food production system
Lead Applicant Organization Name
Dynamic startup dedicated to the development and commercialization of SCWO technology for on-site, circular resources mgmt.
Lead Applicant Organization Type
Small company (under 50 employees)
If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.
Duke University, North Carolina State University, Stantec Inc., Powerverde Inc., Merrell Bros Inc.
Website of Legally Registered Entity
How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?
Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?
Durham, North Carolina
Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?
United States of America
Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?
26 Broadway, New York, NY. The Vision is a self-sufficient, universal solution that can be deployed anywhere in the world (and beyond)
What country is your selected Place located in?
United States of America
Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.
Being an x-New Yorker, this block is next to the Charging Bull & the Fearless Girl and Bowling Green Park. This location symbolizes the connection of the capital market curbed by the needs of the future generations and the first park in NYC that started as a waste collection site and soon turned into the first farmers market in the New World, which with today’s technology, could co-exist sustainably. This block is also the start of one of the longest streets in the world (Broadway) loaded with culture from all over the world.
Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.
Bowling Green Park from 102 years ago (1918)
Google Earth view of Broadway 26 New York, NY 10004 United State of America
Charging Bull & the Fearless Girl in a New York winter
This place is the trendsetter, part of the busy life of every day New Yorker, it’s a super urban environment with people that come to work and dominate the world, visitors who want to feel it, and homeless left behind. And the massive unseen infrastructure that supports that lifestyle: Water is brought from the Catskill mountains 120 miles away. Food is being sourced all the way from California 2600 miles away (some from global markets) while waste is collected and hauled an average of 600 miles to landfills.
It’s the world melting pot, where 40% of the city population comes from another country, an open-minded utopia of cultural experiences where more than 200 languages spoken. New Yorkers value time and will do everything in their power to accelerate nature: at the crosswalk, subway and apparently bite 10 times more people than sharks do worldwide. It is also the place of great inventions where ice cream cone, pasta primavera, eggs Benedict, Reuben, General Tsao’s Chicken and Bloody Mary were all invented.
New York City has a humid subtropical climate, with cold winters and hot, moist summers. A study from Columbia University predicted that global climate changes impacts on the New York metropolitan region will affect infrastructure, wetlands, water supply, health, and energy demand. These impacts interact in complex and dynamic ways because of the high population density, heterogeneous ecosystems, and extensive built infrastructure in the region.
What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)
What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?
Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.
With today's climate change effects and projection for 2050, every food production system will face intensifying challenges around water shortage, energy production and supply chains that will be more perceptive to climate shocks (like Hurricane Sandy that brought the city to the brink of disaster) where supply routes, rail, roads, and pipes are at risk. Our current sourcing and disposal methods require high energy usages, which results in high greenhouse gases (GHGs) emissions impacting the planet and making living conditions harder for the majority of the US East Coast.
Over the last few decades, our ability to grow our own food has diminished significantly. Urbanization trends have led us to consume more processed food targeting longer shelf-life and less focus on the quality of the water, soil, and fertilizer. Affecting our daily diet without understanding where and how our food was grown, picked, packaged, stored, and delivered to our home. without the accountability of the process, energy, and water signatures as well as the waste contribution we are heading into a state of imbalanced and entropy.
Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.
Our vision for the future is an onsite decentralized approach in which waste is treated and food is grown locally - helping to create a circular economy that converts the waste we generate to produce energy, water, and fertilizer. This will make our habitat resilient and self-sustaining.
Creating the ability to see the entire process will increase awareness, understanding, and accountability that people will have with their food and waste. More focus will be given to quality, improve efficiency and minimizing waste. cost saving from treating the waste locally could subsidize the food cost and make fresh produce more affordable to all social-economical groups that will lead to a better plant-based diet.
High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.
We are looking to combine the supercritical water oxidation (SCWO) technology we developed over the last 7 years with vertical farming to create a very compact, onsite system that takes organic waste (fecal, food waste, paper, plastic, and organic solvents) and convert it to clean water, CO2, heat, electricity, and minerals that will be used to support the growth of food in enhanced vertical farming. The system is an accelerated and compact version (3 order of magnitudes) of the natural processes that happen to organic materials in nature.
26 Broadway will be able to reduce its energy consumption, GHG emission, grow fresh produce in a vertically integrated solution with a “live supermarket” that sustainably recycle resources and grows healthy food, minimizing waste and packaging. Imagine people picking up their dinner salad straight for the growing stem - no shelf life enhancer, no preservative, packed with flavor instead. The system will supply many types of food all year long regardless of the season or environmental conditions. This will be a resilient, adaptive solution that is immune to climate shocks.
Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?
Block flow diagram of the process to use waste to grow food by 374Water
Enhance farming, more food in a compact form.
Supercritical water oxidation to breakdown waste to energy and water. managing our resources and minerals
On the backend, 374Water disruptive treatment utilizes SCWO technology: a physical-chemical method based on the unique properties of supercritical water. By rapidly reacting organic waste with air above the critical point of water (high pressure and temperature), all the organic contents are converted to energy, clean water, minerals, and CO2 in seconds. End-products include distilled water and pathogen-free water, which contains the inorganic minerals and can be used as fertilizer. Feedstocks include organic waste, human (fecal) waste, food waste, paper, plastic, and spent oil. These account for 80% of the waste we generate.
The continuous process doesn’t require any external energy other than the waste itself. Each unit will generate more than 900 liters of clean water for each ton of processed waste. The process provides the basis to develop a sustainable circular economy around waste, water, energy, and food. Our Units are containerized modules with extremely high throughput; they can be shipped & deployed anywhere, and we are leveraging over 7 years of large scale system design and testing of a SCWO system, developed by the company’s founders at Duke University. That large scale pilot can treat 1 ton per day of fecal and mixed waste.
On the front end, we are looking to partner with horticultural scientists with key expertise in advanced vertical farming to optimize the production of food and strategically relevant products using the SCWO outputs, namely water, CO2, fertilizer, heat, and electricity (for supplemental LED lighting) to maximize yields and productivity. The proposed system is new and promising.
The overall vision is to develop and demonstrate a high-intensity autonomous system that can process plastic and mixed wastes (e.g., food and/or fecal wastes) and convert them into a range of food products. The first unit is a waste DeConstruction Unit (DCU) relying on supercritical water oxidation (SCWO), a versatile high-throughput process that can convert all plastics and organic wastes into feedstocks and minerals that are amenable for recombination into food and high-value products. The DCU can operate off-grid and produce surplus power. Clean, reusable water is also produced. The second modular unit is an intensive Food Production Unit (FPU) that will grow crops such as tomatoes, collard greens, peas, or oleaginous in an intense fashion, relying on CO2, mineral nutrients, water, and LED lighting, all supplied by the DCU to maximize yields. The FPU is versatile and can be directed to produce virtually any crop. We selected tomatoes, collard greens, peas, and oleaginous for their high yields and high nutrition values. Further, peas can be transformed into a wide range of rich protein products, while oleaginous can be processed into oils and lubricants.
If successful, the proposed system will find widespread application in support not only of dense urban areas like Broadway but also a number of situations where waste treatment and supply food and water are critical. This includes emergency responses, refugee camps, and many more. The DCU could be a stand-alone unit and provide an efficient waste treatment where the FPU is either not desirable or unnecessary. In these cases, the DCU outputs (CO2, clean water, power, hot water) can be valorized differently. The FPU will be a very versatile platform. Its ability to direct the FPU to produce a variety of high-value products is unique. It is also adaptable to future discoveries yet to be conceived, ranging from lubricant production by transgenic plants, to the production of enriched foodstuff or specialty chemicals.
How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?