Composting for a cleaner world

Together with his team, Eemeli Piesala is working on a new composting method which will turn manure from waste into valuable raw material. They are working on the project in a development programme under the TRY OUT! project.

Eemeli Piesala is both a student of biotechnology and agricultural economics and an agricultural business owner. After buying his family farm, he is now attending to a farm with geese and 350 sheep and their lambs alongside his studies at the University of Helsinki.

The farm animals produce a great deal of manure, which could be used as a raw material more extensively. Piesala and his family have for years tried to think of ways to cost-effectively extract the heat and valuable nutrients in it. As no functional methods are available on the market, he will have to develop them himself.

To solve the complex problem, Piesala invited experts from many different fields to join his team. The team members then established a company, Pasrea Oy, which features people from biosciences, soil sciences, agricultural sciences and economics as well as chemical engineering, IT, environmental management and biobusiness. Many of them have roots at the University of Helsinki, as does Piesala himself.

Solution for the biggest environmental problem of animal husbandry

Piesala and his team turned to composting to find a solution for manure processing. The idea is to gather the heat generated by the compost and use it to heat the farm or a greenhouse. At the same time, the ammonia and nutrients in the manure could be harvested. Current composting methods focus on biomass waste processing and soil production. Solutions of a sufficient size to serve a farm require too much expensive labour.

“Using the heat reduces the need for fossil fuels such as heating oil, and the harvested ammonia reduces the need for natural gas, since the ammonia in fertilizer is created from natural gas. Meanwhile, we will get clean soil, which will improve the carbon balance,” explains Piesala.

The diverse microbial life involved in composting can also harbour major opportunities for processing dangerous compounds or substances which decompose slowly.  

Putting the theory into practice

Pasrea is just starting out as a company, and the first tests of the theory are about to launch. There are no guarantees that the idea will work.

“We have to be able to think big, while moving things forward in practice. I believe that we have the right idea at Pasrea. We just need to figure out how to put it into practice. We are ready to start testing soon,” Piesala says.

If everything goes according to plan, Pasrea will be reaching for the top position in the global market of composting systems.

 “That would prove that our solution can help make the world a better place and our processes more sustainable.”

Contacts, coaching and funding

The TRY OUT! development programme has given the Pasrea team the opportunity to network and to bounce the business plan off various partners. Contacts are very important, as is the concrete partnership potential with the City of Helsinki.

Nutrient recycling as part of the bioeconomy is one of the key projects of PM Sipilä’s government. Pasrea has also received key project funding for research and development from the South Ostrobothnia Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment. The research for the project will be conducted in cooperation with the Natural Resources Institute Finland, and the results will be compiled into an academic article for publication.

What is Try Out?

TRY OUT! is a project grounded in a culture of experimentation and joint development which seeks to build an innovation platform and experimental environment. The goal is to discover and test new viable ideas to make cities more sustainable, cut down on emissions and make the daily lives of city dwellers easier, healthier and more environmentally friendly. Ideally, the project will also generate new businesses, jobs and entrepreneurship.

The eleven start-up teams in the TRY OUT! development project, launched in the beginning of 2017, are working to solve urban problems, such as air pollution, traffic emissions and long food delivery chains, together with experts from different fields, companies and the general public.

TRY OUT! is a project funded by the European Regional Development Fund, with partners including the Turku University of Applied Sciences, the University of Turku, the University of Helsinki and Demos Helsinki.