In its first factory, Toopi makes your pee break useful for agriculture

What if your little urine in the highway rest area could plant salads? Start-up Toopi Organics is making this dream come true, this Friday, with the inauguration of its first plant for retrieving human urine with agricultural fertilizers. Presented as “an extraordinary change” by the President of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine Region, where it is one of the favorites at present, the solution is moving to the stage of industrialization after only three years of existence.

The idea is to collect urine, avoiding wastage of water. – E. Provenzano / 20 Minutes

In a short time, Toopi Organics validated its processes, patented its technology and obtained marketing authorization in several countries in Europe and soon, in early 2023, in France. Public authorities, large groups and investors have supported this process from the beginning, which is considered promising and could experience global expansion in the coming years.

A viable business model

Listening to Mickaël Roes, founder of Toopi Organics, we understand that “this first standardized processing unit”, which will be able to produce 250,000 liters of treated urine per year, corresponds to a spreading capacity of over 60,000 hectares, is not just the beginning. “The idea over the next five years is to set up a unit like this in 20 French cities, at the interface between the city, where we have a lot of urine volumes available, and the countryside., If where fertilizer is needed.By offering urine-based organic fertilizer, the young company offers an alternative to chemical fertilizers, based on the extraction of minerals and the oil industry.

In the warehouse, in the air where floating the vague smell of ammonia, we discovered the storage of full vats awaiting treatment. The process developed by Toopi Organics makes it possible to retain nitrogen, trace elements and the magnesium present in the urine, while cleaning the environment. “The culture medium should be pure, meaning there are no bacteria and yeasts, and drug residues are minimized”, specified Guillaume Saurat, technical manager within the young company. The idea is to then cultivate the bacteria in this purified medium. It takes three days in this factory to process 5,000 liters of urine. Topi claims an economical urine recycling technology ”that the products are eventually cheaper for farmers, ”emphasizes Mickaël Roes.

The storage of the tanks was arranged in a warehouse at Loupiac-de-la-Réole, in the Gironde.
The storage of the tanks was arranged in a warehouse at Loupiac-de-la-Réole, in the Gironde. – E. Provenzano / 20 Minutes

How is urine collected?

To collect vital fluids, the company relies on structures that receive a large number of public. Nearly 400,000 liters per year are collected at Futuroscope and at some high schools and colleges. Future establishments can be equipped once they are built. Sampling was also arranged at four motorway service areas, thanks to a partnership with Vinci, and discussions were underway to develop 400 other motorway service areas. “There are also Darwin and Urssaf that have been equipped recently, complete Mickaël Roes. Everything is going fast. Collections have also been organized at 70% of current festivals, in conjunction with partners who make toilets.” We never have. individuals will do, the remaining 30 to 40%, because the collection is too complex “, specified the founder.

To expedite the marketing of its product, in conjunction with the launch of its first production unit, Topi signed a contract with an operator called a marketer, which sells fertilizer to cooperatives. Thanks to Toopi, he saved himself from importing phosphates, which had previously been carried by boat.

High ambition

For the 20 other factories planned in France, it will be a joint venture, i.e. within the framework of a company with shared capital with cooperatives, as it makes it possible to change and add value locally, in nearly a hundred miles around. . “The climb is quite long so while waiting for 2024 we are selling in a more classic way”, the founder specified. It considers strong growth in the coming years with a five-year turnover forecast of 80 million euros on a French scale.

Of the 20 factories Topi plans to open in France, five will be operational from 2024. “In 2025, we can show that it works and we are accelerating until 2027”, he enthuses. In the coming years, the company plans 250 recruitments, which currently has 22 employees.

“Now, we have three million liters secured per year, for a plant with 250,000 liters of processing capacity, so instead the volume of the plant (rather than the raw material) is lacking.” Marketing has already begun in Belgium and several other countries, especially Africans, showing intense desire for the process.

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