Advanced Potash Technologies: Solving the food crisis with a better fertilizer
October 19, 2018
At a 2012 conference, Wender met with members of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT, who he says quickly understood the magnitude and impact of the project and wanted to be involved. After less than a year of sponsored research, the team at the Allanore Group proposed a low-temperature, hydrothermal pathway. Rather than extracting potassium out of a rock, this process disrupted the crystal structure enough to allow the plant’s roots to do the rest of the work. “Professor Antoine Allanore realized that plants have evolved for millions of years thanks to their abilities to extract nutrition from the ground,” Wender says. “Why not simply take advantage of this natural mechanism?”
The MIT research program is ongoing and has resulted in HydroPotash, a fertilizer with controlled potassium release and no chloride, making it applicable to any soil type. By operating at a lower temperature and for shorter times, Allanore’s approach also requires less energy, making APT’s production process scalable in ways that other methods could not be, Wender says. Simultaneously, APT is researching additional areas of potential value, including the remediation of heavy metals in soil, combining the product with growth-supporting bacteria, and mitigating run-off and volatilization losses in nitrogen fertilizers.