The global Phosphorus crisis: excess and scarcity
Modern agriculture relies primarily on mined Phosphorus as fertilizer, half of which ends up in our lakes and rivers .
Excess. The resulting excess Phosphorus pollution is a key driver for toxic algal blooms which can render our drinking water toxic (Toledo, OH, 2014 ) and deeply harms natural ecosystems worldwide [3,4]. The US EPA is addressing this widespread Health and Environmental crisis by issuing new water phosphorus regulations across the country , whose implementation by Municipal Wastewater Treatment Facilities proves expensive. Current costs range between $40-60 per lb phosphorus removed , which would amount to an additional fee of $57-87 per person per year for each compliant public utility customer (based on the data that each person contributes 1.8 gram phosphorus per day  in municipal wastewater).
Scarcity. The world’s main source of phosphorus fertilizer is mined phosphate rock. While global phosphorus demand is rising (to feed a growing world population), cheap high-quality reserves are becoming increasingly scarce . Phosphorus mining is associated with radioactive and heavy metal pollution [8,9], whose cost is heightened by the quality decline of current reserves. In addition, global market tensions render phosphorus prices volatile, as has been seen in the 2008 price spike (see Figure). With only 5% of the world reserve [10,11], China, which nevertheless satisfies 45% of the global demand , just froze exports until at least June 2022 [11,14]. Resulting increases in food price, especially meat, are to be expected in the upcoming months.
PIARCS’ dual solution
PIARCS’ phosphorus-hungry microbes (PHM) completely remove phosphate from wastewater and can be recovered as high density organic fertilizer:
- High-affinity (residual levels below 0.03 mg P/L) enable EPA water compliance
- High-loading (0.7 g P/ g dry weight) allow for high density organic phosphorus fertilizer production
- One-step microbial process, rapid (~20-40min contact time)
- The PHM (bacteria) can grow on cheap carbon sources such as the glycerol waste from biodiesel production
PIARCS’ phosphorus technology combines all the advantages of competing technologies.
PIARCS’ PHM enables a vertuous phosphorus cycle compatible with modern agriculture and industrialization.
PIARCS’ ongoing progress
PIARCS’ PHM are triggered by a molecule which has yet to be identified. Fundamental research is ongoing at this time.
Licensing revenue target
$2 per person per year licensing revenue (in addition to an expected operating cost under $1 per person per year).
 https://ec.europa.eu/environment/natres/pdf/phosphorus/sustainable_use_phosphorus.pdf and Figure 3.1