One-line solution summary.
An integrated technology & business model that turns urban food waste into compost with crop-specific nutrients, accelerated through oxidation technology.
What is your solution?
COMP-OX works as the missing link needed to create a circular economy in the agricultural sector. This is achieved by handling organic urban waste and turning it into crop-specific compost, that is then used to return nutrients to the eroded land of the farm fields in order to meet the food needs of various sectors. The process involves classification of organic food waste through machine learning and computer vision techniques to provide different nutrient mixes within the compost. Furthermore, a fully controlled and automated oxidation process is used throughout the reaction stage. The above reduces composting time from several days to just a few hours. Furthermore, COMP-OX takes care of urban waste by offering a cost-free recollection service.
What specific problem are you trying to solve?
Land desertification is becoming an increasingly urgent problem to be solved. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that the occurrence and severity of droughts will intensify globally. As the earth's temperature increases by 1.5° (which is expected to happen in the next 5 years) the population vulnerable to water, energy and land problems is expected to reach 951 million. Drought makes ecosystems more sensitive to changes in temperature and precipitation, increasing their vulnerability to desertification.
Desertification leads to food scarcity, this added to soil erosion and decomposition of organic carbon in soils, will generate global malnutrition. Soil erosion by water causes, per year, global losses of up to 42 million tons of nitrogen and 26 million tons of phosphorus. This ultimately results in millions of farmers having to invest in expensive composts that are not always suited to their land needs.
While on the one hand we are running out of food, on the other we are wasting 1.3 billion tons of food every year. Whether this waste arrives at landfills or is incinerated, it continues to emit greenhouse gases: one ton of municipal waste is associated with the release of about 0.7 to 1.7 tons of carbon dioxide (Zero Waste Europe, 2019). If we relate these data, 2.21 billion tons of CO2 are released per year. Poor waste management prevents achieving a circular economy, increases world hunger and pollutes the environment.
Who does your solution serve? In what ways will the solution impact their lives?
Our solution has the primary interest of serving the agricultural sector. Current solutions for soil erosion are costly and take a long time to take effect. We want to facilitate this process to farmers. We want to provide accessible compost prices for farmers in order to increase crop quality and production volume per labor unit while ensuring its safety and preventing desertification. Additionally, through our processes we can provide adequate food waste management for our partners, thus, handling CO2 emissions and turning them into industrial inputs instead of them being released in landfills. Furthermore, local jobs will be generated throughout the recollection, manufacturing and selling processes.
What steps have you taken to understand the needs of the population you want to serve?
The awareness of the problem originated from our team’s personal experiences. We realized that there is poor management of waste in our communities, which represents a source of contamination. This meant an area of opportunity for us to implement an innovative solution. Afterwards, we investigated how waste can be managed efficiently. From this, we observed that composting exploits this waste and combats desertification and food scarcity.
Driven by our curiosity, we prepared homemade compost for personal consumption. Seeing the benefits, we decided that producing it on a larger scale could help others. However, we realized the problem that typical compost takes long time to be produced.
Therefore, we researched and identified that the acceleration of oxidation accelerates the degradation of organic matter. At this point, we started to design and run experiments of a possible oxidation reactor containing ozone. Its success validated the solution for creating a nutritious mix for compost produced at a fast pace.
Finally, members of the team that are part of Climate Reality Leadership Corps and Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms had first-hand interaction with communities that have experienced the effects of desertification and verified that this way of composting is a viable solution.
Which aspects of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?
Taking action to combat climate change and its impacts (Sustainability)
Our solution's stage of development:Concept: An idea being explored for its feasibility to build a product, service, or business model based on that idea
Explain why you selected this stage of development for your solution—in other words, what have you accomplished to date?
The conceptual stage was chosen because, until now, the available information was gathered through the proof of concept that was done by producing lab-scale compost. The first experiments were carried out and data was gathered to obtain compost from advanced oxidation processes, and favorable results have been obtained. With this information, the process has been improved and the potential to achieve industrial-level production has been demonstrated. A feasible & economically sustainable business model was proposed, showing the great capability that COMP-OX has to cover larger-scale markets. a possible scaling to an industrial process is suggested, and a business model that we consider feasible is proposed.
Where our solution team is headquartered or located:Puebla, Pue., México
Luis Gerardo Carvajal Fernandez
Which of the following categories best describes your solution?A new use of an existing technology (e.g. application to a new problem or in a new location)
Describe the core technology that powers your solution.
The classification process will be carried out using neural networks through image processing and computer vision techniques as edge detection, thresholding and perspective warping. This will automate and enhance the process of food waste detection and classification towards 4 main groups: fruits and vegetables, meat, cereals and legumes, and non-compostable materials. Once classified, a conveyor band will take them to their respective composting process. Each process is carried out by using technology to pulverize and dehydrate waste food. Then, advanced oxidation reactors decompose food waste into compost through ozone and UV light mechanisms.
Furthermore, a mobile application will enable the monitoring of the status with sensors and real time updates of the biomass and gas production, and carbon offset. Also, it will allow control of key variables within the system to ensure the highest quality. Finally, the obtained data will be used to manage the chemical composition of the final product by working on a semi-batch basis, allowing the process to be modified according to desired specifications but not losing production capacity.
Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:
In which countries do you currently operate?
How many people does your solution currently serve, and how many do you plan to serve in the next year? If you haven’t yet launched your solution, tell us how many people you plan to serve in the next year.
We haven't yet launched our solution. Next year, we plan to serve up to 10% of the Mexican agricultural sector. This accounts to 550,000 agricultural workers, including both farmers and collectors.
Moreover, our strategy is to achieve partnerships that can supply more than 39 tons of food waste per year. As a reference, an average medium-sized restaurant generates 4 tons of food waste yearly.
What are your impact goals for the next year, and how will you achieve them?
By 2023, we expect to achieve our main goal: become circular economy enablers in Latin America. To do so, we plan on obtaining green certificates that prove that our compost complies with the sustainability goals that it promises. We want to change the mindsets of our partners, food retailers and restaurant chains, by training them on adequate food separation and disposal.
For our warehouse operations we are focusing on employing local minorities. We want to create a fast and automatic composting process that can save up energy and prevent pollution. Our objective is to use our compost to help lower the desertification constraints of the agricultural sector; our main focus during our first year of operations will be in Northern Mexico. To achieve this, we need: A) to meet our projection of producing more than 4.5 million kg of compost per year through the development of the pilot plant, B) to build solid partnerships with urban food waste sources (e.g., supermarkets, restaurants, etc.) for meeting the above-mentioned compost production.
How are you measuring your progress or planning to measure your progress toward your impact goals?
The UN Sustainable Development Goals that are going to help us measure COMP-OX progress are the following:
- By 2030, double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers with whom we work.
- By 2030, ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that help maintain ecosystems, strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change and progressively improve land and soil quality
- Increase the volume of production per labor unit of our agricultural clients.
- Achieve higher levels of economic productivity through technological upgrading and innovation.
- Promote development-oriented policies that support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and encourage the formalization and growth of our micro-sized enterprise.
- By 2030, halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels as well as reduce food losses along production and supply chains.
- By 2020, achieve the environmentally sound management of the chemicals and wastes involved in our processes throughout their life cycle, in accordance with agreed international frameworks, and significantly reduce their release to air, water and soil in order to minimize their adverse impacts on the environment.
- By 2030, substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse.
The KPIs that we use to evaluate our impact goals are:
- Tons of CO2 not released into the atmosphere
- Tons of compost produced
- Square meters of land positively impacted by the compost
- Number of jobs generated by the project
- Project revenue (USD)
What barriers currently exist for you to accomplish your goals in the next year?
From a production point of view, the suggested manufacturing process could be slightly modified once more information is collected from later experimental composting stages. This could include measuring detailed equipment operating conditions, or replacement of absorption towers with other purification equipment. We also require legal advice to put an establishment that manages organic residues and chemical processes. Further financial assessment is needed to validate the business model and revenue streams. Finally, partnering with large-scale clients is a challenge due to their scale and the associated slow bureaucratic processes.
How many people work on your solution team?
7 full-time team members
How long have you been working on your solution?
How are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?
The team consists of students and professionals from the areas of science, business and engineering with a global vision focused on sustainability. It includes a multidisciplinary skillset, so our solution is approached from the viewpoints of chemistry, biochemistry, mechatronics, nanotechnology and business. Some of the team members have experience in charitable volunteering for the environment and society, and climate-related initiatives and activism projects. Also, most of the members have experience in research focused on sustainable development, including the thesis publication “Dynamic analysis of an anaerobic bioreactor: biogas production from organic waste” by one of our team members, Emilio Guerrero.
What organizations do you currently partner with, if any? How are you working with them?
We currently have no partnerships. However, we plan to partner with businesses that have a high food waste generation, such as restaurants, hotels, and supermarkets. In addition, we intend to partner with climate-related initiatives to promote sustainable waste management.
Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The HP Girls Save the World Prize? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.No
If you selected Yes, explain how you are qualified for this prize. How will your team use The HP Girls Save the World Prize to advance your solution?
Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The Pozen Social Innovation Prize? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.No
If you selected Yes, explain how you are qualified for this prize. How will your team use The Pozen Social Innovation Prize to advance your solution?
Luis Carvajal Fernandez Venture Building Analyst, Siemens Energy
Silvia Castillo Oropeza Universidad de las Américas Puebla
Emilio Khalil Guerrero Escobedo Universidad de las Américas Puebla
Luis Tolentino Universidad de las Américas Puebla
Jorge Emilio Venegas Lozano Universidad de las Américas Puebla