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Challenge Seeks Nutrient Recycling from Livestock Waste

Row of cows


4 December 2015. A public-private consortium seeks techniques for recycling crop nutrients from livestock waste in an open-innovation challenge paying $20,000 in prizes. The competition, sponsored by Environmental Protection Agency and a number of partners in government, academia, not-for-profit organizations, and industry has a deadline of 15 January 2016 for initial submissions.

The challenge itself is conducted by InnoCentive in Waltham, Massachusetts that conducts open-innovation, crowdsourcing competitions for corporate and organization sponsors. Free registration is required to see details of the competition.

EPA and its partners are looking for affordable technologies to recycle nutrients from livestock waste and create valuable products. The sponsors say livestock producers generate more than a billion tons of manure each year, that also contain valuable nutrients needed for plant growth, such as nitrogen and phosphorous. Despite this opportunity, better techniques and tools are needed for processing manure to extract these nutrients, while minimizing water pollution and contributing to soil health.

Through the challenge, the sponsors are aiming to speed development of nutrient recovery technologies that can be implemented by pork and dairy farms, and produce environmental and economic benefits. In the process, EPA and its partners hope to heighten awareness of issues and opportunities related to nutrients and manure, connect people with innovative ideas to the industry, and stimulate markets for products derived from recycled nutrients.

InnoCentive calls this type of competition an ideation challenge, which requires a brief (two-page) proposal. Ideation proposals can contain ideas originating from the participants, ideas from the public domain where no restrictions are applied, or ideas from third-parties where participants have the rights to propose solutions with those ideas. Participants are asked not to submit confidential information in their proposals.

The competition is carried out in four stages. Initial proposals are due by 15 January 2016 to InnoCentive, from which the $20,000 purse will decided. The sponsors plan to award at least one $5,000 prize, but as many as three more awards of that size, depending on the quality of the first submissions.

Participants in the challenge sending in ideas considered promising will be invited to the second stage, a two-day meeting in Washington, D.C. in the spring of 2016, where they will be asked to pitch their ideas to investors. Prototypes and proofs-of-concept making up the third stage are expected by the summer of 2016. And finalists chosen to take part in the fourth stage, demonstration projects, will be notified in the spring of 2017.

In addition, sponsoring organizations may contact challenge participants directly about advancing their proposals into proof-of-concept or prototype. Competitors with initial ideas already advanced through proof-of-concept may be asked to develop demonstration projects with livestock producers.

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