An urgent call for using real human urine in decentralized sanitation research


The choices we make matter. The choices we make as scientists can significantly impact society. In this perspective article published in Frontiers in Environmental Sciences, Caitlin Courtney, Dyllon Randall and I focus on one such methodological choice in decentralized sanitation research: whether to use real human urine or synthetic/artificial urine for experimentation.

For various reasons, many studies opt for synthetic urine over real human urine, relying on recipes for making synthetic solutions that mimic real urine. Using synthetic solutions as stand-ins for real fluids is a legitimate scientific method, and one that is not uncommon in wastewater research. But exclusively using synthetic urine can present methodological challenges, especially when protocols for its preparation are not well-established and validated against real urine. This article highlights some of the compositional and property differences between synthetic urine and real urine, and the implications of these differences on experimental outcomes and their real-life implications.

We hope this article sparks a dialogue within the research community on the benefits of using real urine in experimental research. We strongly encourage researchers involved in this field to collaborate in establishing standardized terminology, definitions, methodologies, and best practices for sanitation-related research involving human urine.

If you are interested in furthering this effort, please do reach out to us!

Simha, P., Courtney, C., & Randall, D. G. An urgent call for using real human urine in decentralized sanitation research and advancing protocols for preparing synthetic urine. Frontiers in Environmental Science12, 1367982.

Oliver is back at SLU for his thesis project!


My name is Oliver. Currently, I am in my final year of studies at Tampere University of Applied Science. My association with the urine drying team dates back to the summer of 2022. During that period, I was involved in researching various methods for the acidification of urine. The primary objective of this research was to prevent the process of enzymatic urea hydrolysis, thereby preserving nitrogen in urine. I have now returned to SLU to write my BSc thesis, where I will focus on exploring techniques for the removal of organic micropollutants. These pollutants, can have significant environmental impacts, especially in aquatic environments. Through my research, I aim to contribute to the development of more sustainable and effective waste management practices.

Microbes In Focus: Isis Conroy’s Return to SLU


Hi, I am Isis Conroy. I am in the final year of my bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering at Tampere University. Last year, I was at SLU working alongside Natnael Demissie with lab duties relating to his doctoral thesis which evaluated the effect of UV and peroxide on antimicrobial-resistant bacteria and their genes. This year I have returned to do my own thesis working on a project that aims to standardize a methodology for assessing urea hydrolysis in urine by utilizing bacterial urease rather than jack bean urease. In both my work and hobbies, I enjoy microbiology, microscopy, and mycology. In my free time, I am a mushroom guide, teach microscopy lectures to children, and I enjoy spending time outdoors. I will be at SLU until I present my thesis in early June.

The AirCloset project!


The SLU Urban Futures hub in Ultuna has granted funding to three interdisciplinary projects focusing on the Urban Food-Energy-Water nexus, one of which is called “The AirCloset” that will be led by Prithvi Simha from SLU, Sweden and Gert van der Merwe from NUST, Namibia.

The Air Closet and Granurin Technology:
The project will pioneer the development of a toilet that separates and dehydrates urine using solar-thermal energy. This not only provides a sustainable solution for sanitation in informal settlements but also presents a unique opportunity for recycling urine into a great fertilizer – Granurin.

Granurin, a Fertilizer Revolution:
Granurin, with its 20% nitrogen content, represents a revolutionary step in sustainable agriculture. Simha and his colleagues at SLU have successfully developed a technology to dehydrate urine, creating these safe fertilizer pellets that can potentially replace synthetic fertilizers. This not only contributes to circular food production but also opens up a global avenue for local food security enhancement.

Impact on Urban Informal Settlements:
Taking the technology a step further, the project aims to implement urine drying in urban informal settlements, where over a billion people reside without access to basic services. By providing a solution that integrates sanitation, agriculture, and economic empowerment, The Air Closet challenges the status quo, striving to uphold the promise of Agenda 2030 – “leave no one behind.”


Call for papers in BMC Environmental Sciences on Nature-Based Solutions in wastewater management


BMC Environmental Science is calling for submissions to a speciall issue on Nature-based solutions in waste-water management. Prithvi Simha from our research group, who is an editorial board member of BMC Environmental Science, is serving as one of the three guest editors of this special issue, alongside Sartaj Ahmad Bhat from Gifu University, Japan and Dai-Viet N. Vo from Nguyen Tat Thanh University, Vietnam. 

  • Submission Status: Open
  • Submission Deadline: 2 September 2024
The coastal wetlands around Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. Credit: Hank Carter.

Why Nature-Based Solutions Matter: Nature-based solutions offer a sustainable alternative to conventional wastewater treatment methods. From centuries-old practices to cutting-edge innovations, this special issue explores how natural processes and ecosystems can revolutionize wastewater treatment. Imagine vertical flow constructed wetlands minimizing treatment footprints and coconut coir and biochar enhancing pollutant removal. Add real-time data analysis and automation, and you have a recipe for ecological resilience, nutrient recycling, and sustainable water use.

How You Can Contribute: We’re calling for submissions from researchers, experts, and enthusiasts passionate about shaping the future of wastewater management. Whether you’re conducting groundbreaking research, implementing nature-based solutions in the field, or exploring the potential of innovative technologies, we want to hear from you! We’re looking for original research, case studies, and reviews that explore the efficiency, scalability, and effectiveness of nature-based solutions.

Submission : Before you dive in, check out our submission guidelines at

Spread the Word: Help us spread the word! Share this announcement with your colleagues, fellow researchers, and anyone interested in the intersection of environmental science and sustainable practices. Let’s create a diverse and impactful collection of insights.

Grand opening of the largest insect factory in northen Europe


Last week, Cecilia and Viktoria embarked on a night-train journey to attend the grand opening of ENORM biofactory in Midjytland, Denmark. On the 5th of December, ENORM opened its doors and welcomed visitors to inaugurate Scandinavias biggest insect company. The long-term goal of  ENORM is processing substantial amounts of organics to produce equally substantial volumes of insect-derived products.

To say that we were impressed is an understatement, and we wish ENORM all the best with their endeavors.

If you want to know more, see their linkedin post of the event and an episode of Vetenskapsradion På djupet (in Swedish) in which they interview Jane Lind Sam, the founder of Enorm.

Evans Were joins Kretsloppsteknik as post-doc


Evans Were has joined the Kretsloppsteknik group as a Postdoc Research Fellow. At SLU, Evans will investigate the mechanisms and dynamics of infectious biological agents, including prions, bacteriophages, and spore-forming bacteria in the process of bio-conversion of biowaste using black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) larvae. Larvae of H. illucens remarkably convert biowaste into larval biomass (high-quality protein feed) and residue (biofertilizer) as end products. Understanding the dynamics of infectious biological agents within this process is crucial to ensure process safety and efficacy.

Evans worked as a technical assistant researcher at the Hans-Ruthenberg Institute, University of Hohenheim. There, he taught bench techniques (including microbiology and molecular biology) to graduate students. Before joining Hohenheim, Evans worked as a research assistant at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Uganda. At IITA, Evans optimized methods for molecular characterization of plant pathogenic microorganisms and supported phytopathology and plant breeding teams. This work led to the discovery of novel genetic traits that enhance resistance to some of the most economically important diseases of banana, a crop that provides food security and income for over 400 million people globally.

Evans was born and raised in Uganda, where he completed his diploma and BSc degree in Biological Sciences, and MSc degree in Molecular Biology from Makerere University. Evans earned his Doctorate in 2023 from the University of Hohenheim, Germany where he studied the notorious phytopathogenic fungus, Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense tropical race 4.

Ava and Evelina join us to investigate fate of mussel toxins in BSFL treatment


Hi, our names are Ava & Evelina. We are two 17 year old girls in our final year studying Natural science (Naturvetenskap) at Rosendalsgymnasiet. For nearly three years we’ve been studying topics based around scientific subjects. Part of our studies consists of a scientific rapport, called a Gymnasiearbete (highschool diploma work), a requirement needed to graduate next summer. Throughout the next couple of weeks we’ll be doing laboratory work in the Department of Energy and Technology at SLU. We intend on focusing on the link between larvae and algae infected mussels from the Baltic Sea. We’ll be guided by Viktoria Wiklicky and Dr Cecilia Lalander who will help us in carrying out our studies.

Visit from our Estonian collaborators


Keeping a viable and productive Black Soldier Fly colony up and running can be hard sometimes, this is why it is great to have international relationships and colleagues to help you out when your colony needs to be replaced. Our Black Soldier Fly colleagues from Estonia picked up their new stock of larvae from SLU last week and finally also visited SLU facilities. The newest developments on both sides were discussed over lunch and after a tour through the (new) container based fly lab, larvae were sent off to their new home at the Estonian University of Life Sciences in Tartu.

Viktoria’s visit to Benin


Viktoria just returned from Benin which she visited in October to work together with colleagues from IITA at completing the goals of workpackage I + III in our VR funded project ‘Insect farming for feed production and organic waste management in Benin‘. Together they investigated and sampled waste streams from the south and the north of Benin and worked on improving the Black Soldier Fly colony at IITA, to secure a stable and high production of Black Soldier Fly larvae for future waste treatments. The visit was ended with a fruitful final discussion, where the gained knowledge and experience was shared with the rest of the work groups, both at SLU and IITA.

IITA, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, is a non-profit institution that generates agricultural innovations to meet Africa’s most pressing challenges of hunger, malnutrition, poverty, and natural resource degradation. Working with various partners across sub-Saharan Africa, they aim to improve livelihoods, enhance food and nutrition security while increasing employment, and preserve natural resources.

About the project:

The project is funded by VR (Vetenskapsrådet) and the objective is for Black Soldier Fly Farming to contribute to solving socio-economic and environmental issues in Benin by reducing the adverse impact of inadequate waste management, while at the same time improving agricultural productivity with locally sourced products.