2022-09-14 12:24Press release

Ragn-Sells announced as finalist for world’s largest environmental award

Montage. Photo by Sanne de WildeMontage. Photo by Sanne de Wilde

Environmental company Ragn-Sells has been announced as one of ten finalists for the 2022 Curt Bergfors Food Planet Prize, a recognition of its technologies for recycling key fertiliser nutrients from waste. The two ultimate winners will each receive a prize sum of 2 million USD, making the Food Planet Prize the world’s largest environmental award.

– According to the UN, the world is headed for a hunger crisis of historic proportions, partly fuelled by a shortage of fertiliser. We are extremely proud that the jury recognises our efforts to produce fertiliser nutrients from waste streams that are available in every country on the planet, says Ragn-Sells Chief Sustainability Officer Pär Larshans.

Ragn-Sells’ entry for the award consists of three separate, patented methods for recovering and recycling the three main nutrients crucial to agricultural fertiliser: Ash2Phos for phosphorus, Aqua2N for nitrogen, and Ash2Salt for potassium. Without these three key nutrients, it would be impossible for farmers all over the world to grow the food we need, especially as Earth’s population is expected to keep growing rapidly.

– Today’s sourcing and handling of these three nutrients is deeply problematic. It contributes heavily to climate change, pollutes the environment, overshoots crucial planetary boundaries, and creates dependencies. With our methods, we want to contribute to a thorough reform of the entire global food system, says Anna Lundbom, Chief Marketing Officer at Ragn-Sells’ innovation company EasyMining, which has developed the technologies.

  • Phosphorus comes from phosphate mines. In addition to the large climate impact of this method, most of the world’s known phosphate reserves are polluted with heavy metals like cadmium and uranium. Still, the majority of phosphorus-rich sewage sludge goes to waste in landfills. The Ash2Phos technology extracts more than 90 percent of the phosphorus from incinerated sludge, while getting rid of pollutants.
  • Nitrogen fertiliser is produced by fixating nitrogen from the atmosphere. The standard method is more than 100 years old and runs on fossil gas, contributing to enormous greenhouse gas emissions. But, the nitrogen in sewage is simply released back into the air by wastewater treatment plants. The Aqua2N technology captures the nitrogen at the plant in a form instantly applicable as fertiliser, creating a loop.
  • Potassium, like phosphorus, is mined, primarily in Canada, Russia, and Belarus. The Ash2Salt technology instead extracts potassium from fly ash, a by-product of energy production from the incineration of waste. Until now, fly ash has simply been landfilled leading to its resources being wasted. The first full-scale Ash2Salt facility is about to start operations near Stockholm, and the technology is available in 12 countries thanks to a licencing agreement with global cleantech company Hitachi Zosen Inova.

– If we are serious about creating a sustainable society, we have to start using the raw materials we already have – over and over again. As the world’s population keeps increasing, recycling agricultural nutrients is crucial to our ability to feed everyone without ruining the planet, says Pär Larshans.

The finalists are announced over the course of four weeks. So far, the other known finalists are Apeel and Wonderbag. The final decision on the two winners is made by a jury of ten experts in various fields, co-chaired by the Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Johan Rockström, and Michelin star chef and Director of MAD Academy, Magnus Nilsson.

The Curt Bergfors Foundation was established in 2019 by the Swedish entrepreneur Curt Bergfors, founder of the restaurant chain MAX Burgers. The Curt Bergfors Food Planet Prize is now the world’s largest environmental award, aiming to accelerate the transition to sustainable food systems.

For more information, please contact
Pär Larshans, Chief Sustainability Officer at Ragn-Sells, +46 70-927 29 63, par.larshans@ragnsells.com
Anna Lundbom, Chief Marketing Officer at EasyMining, +46 70 927 28 29, anna.lundbom@ragnsells.com
Emma Ranerfors, Press Officer at Ragn-Sells, +46 10-723 24 16, press@ragnsells.com

The Curt Bergfors Food Planet Prize
Launched in 2019, The Curt Bergfors Food Planet Prize is the largest monetary award in the environmental arena. It rewards innovative solutions that can help the world shift to sustainable food systems within a ten-year timeframe. The purpose is to recognise visionaries who are working to rethink, re-engineer and reshape our food systems and enable them to make an impact. The two winners of Food Planet Prize are selected by a global ten-member jury, including the co-chairs Johan Rockström and Magnus Nilsson, and receive a 2 million USD prize sum.

Facts: Ragn-Sells’ and EasyMining’s circular nutrient solutions
The Ash2Phos process treats the ash from incinerated sewage sludge. The ash has a high concentration of phosphorus, iron, and aluminium, but also contains unwanted heavy metals such as cadmium. The high metal content is an obstacle for processing the ash with conventional methods. In the Ash2Phos process, sludge ash is treated in a wet chemical process for the recovery of phosphorus, aluminium, and iron as clean commercial products. Cadmium and other unwanted elements are separated out for disposal.

Ash2Salt: When flue gas from waste incineration is scrubbed and filtered, fly ash is formed and captured. This ash is classified as a hazardous waste due to high levels of pollutants, but also contains several desirable compounds, such as potassium and sodium salts. In the Ash2Salt process, the fly ash is washed, and three commercial salts are extracted from the wash liquid: sodium chloride, potassium chloride and calcium chloride. The ash residue that remains after the treatment does not have to be placed on special landfills for hazardous waste, and several industrial applications may be possible; research is ongoing.

Aqua2N: To prevent eutrophication, wastewater treatment plants remove nitrogen from sewage water. This is done using bacterial methods that release the nitrogen back into the atmosphere. The Aqua2N technology, by contrast, is a chemical method applied to the sludge liquor that is formed when water is separated from sludge solids. Here, nitrogen in the form of ammonium is captured by an adsorption chemical. Next, the captured ammonium is recovered in a conversion plant to be used as fertiliser, and the adsorption chemical is regenerated to be used again.

Detailed information about the Ash2Phos, Ash2Salt and Aqua2N technologies can be found on the EasyMining web site.

About Ragn-Sells Group

The environmental company Ragn-Sells converts waste into raw materials that can be be used over and over again. Ragn-Sells drives the transition to a circular economy through solutions that reduce its own and other actors' environmental and climate impact. Ragn-Sells wants to be living proof that caring for the earth and business go hand in hand. Ragn-Sells is a family owned corporate group founded in 1881. The company operates in five countries and employs 2,500 persons. In 2021, Ragn-Sells’ turnover was SEK 7.6 billion. www.ragnsells.com


Emma Ranerfors
Press Officer
Emma Ranerfors