This startup turning human waste into fertilizer just raised $7.5 million. Here’s the 17-slide pitch deck Wasted used to raise the fresh funds.
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- Wasted is making fertilizer out of urine and just raised $7.5 million in fresh funding.
- The Vermont startup has a multi-pronged approach – solving sanitation and food security.
- We got an exclusive look at the 17-slide pitch deck it used to raise the cash.
Where our pee and poo go is rarely top of mind when we flush the toilet.
But it’s hard to ignore it in places like Everest Base Camp or Patagonia, where mountaineers and hikers are forced to do their business in open pits. It was trips to locations like these that sparked the curiosity of the founders of Wasted, a startup that turns human urine into fertilizer.
“What do you do with your poop when there’s no toilet to use? Generally what’s done in the backcountry is a big pit is dug and everyone uses that pit,” Brophy Tyree, Wasted cofounder and CEO, told Insider.
“When you combine solid and liquid waste it creates a compound that doesn’t naturally biodegrade. These pits fill up with the sludge, it gets washed out into the environment, and it’s really toxic.”
It was his experience with these very pits that inspired Tyree to cofound a startup dedicated to shifting the world towards circular sanitation where the nutrients of human waste are put to use.
Wasted, which he created alongside Taylor Zehren and Thor Retzlaff, is redesigning the porta-potty to ultimately turn human waste into agriculture fertilizer. The company has just raised $7.5 million from New York firm Collaborative Fund, an early backer of smart thermostat firm Nest Labs, and Canadian impact investor Divergent Capital.
Poor sanitation is something that areas in the global south struggle with every day. The west, too, is facing a “wastewater infrastructure crisis” that is being made worse by the impacts of climate change, Tyree said.
Water treatment is centralized, with large plants strategically placed on coastlines to make discharging waste easier. Low-lying plants are at risk of rising sea levels, while extreme weather such as floods and hurricanes also pose a threat, Tyree said. At least 40 wastewater treatment plants were damaged as a result of the 2017 hurricane Harvey, which saw raw sewage spill out onto streets.
Vermont-headquartered Wasted has developed a porta-potty that separates waste into solids and liquids, which is then collected and taken to a decentralized processing plant. Wasted is currently focused on nutrients in urine and relies on partners with existing “bio-solid” programs for poop. Eventually, Wasted wants to be able to process both.
Nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium are common fertilizers found in human waste but are typically extracted from the earth for use. There is a long history of some countries using untreated or partially-treated human waste as fertilizer. It is commonly referred to as “night soil” in China, but it may increase the risk of disease if not treated properly.
Tyree is keeping Wasted’s processing technology “close to his chest,” but said it is container-based and modular so the company can offer an “entire decentralized infrastructure package” that can be deployed “where ever sanitation needs are the most acute.” Eventually, this could include developing countries, disaster relief zones, and refugee camps.
The funding announcement comes with the company’s public launch. Some 200 toilets are being deployed in Burlington, Vermont, as the company kicks off with customers in construction and municipalities. Its porta-potties are rented and managed on a monthly billing cycle and the creation of fertilizer adds a second revenue stream.
It comes in the aftermath of a global shortage of fertilizer, made worse by Russia’s war in Ukraine. “We’re also adding resiliency into our food systems and agricultural supply chains, which we’ve seen crumbling over the last couple years,” Tyree said.
The treatment process also results in clean water, which Wasted is currently using for its own operations but could be an additional value proposition in other markets. California, for example, has long been plagued with drought.
The cash injection is made up of a $5.7 million seed round and a previously unannounced pre-seed. Day One Ventures, Third Sphere, Pure Ventures, Riverstyx Foundation, Gratitude Railroad, and Susquehanna Foundation also participated. It will be spent on day-to-day operations and buying physical assets, such as trucks and toilets.
We got an exclusive look at the 17-slide pitch deck it used to raise the cash.