Vancouver-based Ostara helps protect valuable food and water resources by changing the way cities and industries around the world manage essential nutrients. It is a Founding Member of the Sustainable Phosphorus Alliance, and VP of Nutrient Recovery Solutions, Matt Kuzma, serves on our Board of Directors.
How big is your company and where does it operate?
Ostara is about 30 people and operates across North America and Europe primarily.
What does your company do related to phosphorus sustainability?
Ostara covers two facets of sustainable phosphorus management. First, we recover phosphorus from industrial and municipal waste streams to reduce pollution from point sources. Secondarily, this recovered phosphate is upcycled into Crystal Green fertilizer, which is citrate-soluble (not water soluble and normal soil pH ranges), and thus reduces potential for nutrient pollution through runoff from fields or groundwater leaching.
What’s your business model?
Ostara is uniquely positioned as a recovery for reuse company, with business units delivering nutrient recovery technology and crop nutrition solutions. We are integrated into markets through contracts to both implement the nutrient recovery technology on applicable water streams and to take the recovered fertilizer product to market through any required processing, registration, licensing, marketing, distribution, and logistical support. It is only through this aggregated supply chain that market-competitive volumes and economies of scale can be achieved.
What are the biggest challenges you face?
Interesting question, as this effort to shift thinking from removal to recovery has been a challenge in the technology adoption rate from many market sectors that don’t view sustainable phosphorus management as a responsibility. While many water treatment facility owners/operators are required to remove phosphorus from their streams, they are not incentivized to invest in longer term solutions that complete the cycle of a circular phosphorus economy. Commonly, this type of practice as viewed as greater risk and/or cost, without accounting for the longer term benefits or impacts of such an investment. From the crop nutrition aspect, it takes time to build the awareness in the market (both retailers and growers) of the benefits of a non-water soluble fertilizer. There are agronomic, economic, and environmental benefits which are all vital to the value proposition and adoption speed for our product.
Where do you see the biggest opportunities for advancing phosphorus sustainability?
There is tremendous opportunity for both increased adoption in the established markets, but also broadening markets for geographies and industrial segments that are increasingly developing more advanced practices. While there is also great opportunity and demonstrated technical feasibility in the animal waste segment, this will require new business models with aggregation to reach economies of scale where implementation makes economic sense. That said, this recovery must be done in conjunction with reuse wherein our agriculture communities adapt and adopt new crop nutrition products like Crystal Green to reduce the non-point source pollution points in parallel with point source.
What’s been your biggest sustainability win?
We’ve established the largest installation base of phosphorus recovery sites, and are both producing and selling the largest volume of recovered phosphorous fertilizer in the market.