Woodco Renewable Energy Ltd. (Woodco) has today announced the commencement of an ambitious smart sanitation project in South Africa. The project follows the successful completion of a feasibility study funded by the European Space Agency and supported by the Toilet Board Coalition (TBC). The feasibility study highlighted the public health benefits that can be realised by combining terrestrial technologies with space-based capabilities in communities where improved sanitation measures are being deployed. The integration of satellite communications, coupled with Woodco’s existing sludge treatment solution’s off-grid performance capability, supports the deployment of the overall sanitation solution even in remote locations, where there may be little or no terrestrial infrastructure. The demonstration project is scheduled to take 3 years.

Under the “Space for Sanitation” project, Woodco will develop a smart sanitation management platform that harnesses the latest in Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies, and that incorporates space-based technologies that deliver earth observation, satellite communications, and Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) capabilities. The smart sanitation management platform supports the collection and analysis of contextually complementary data modalities relating to toilet-user behaviour and health, sanitation management processes, and broader external environmental factors.

The main goal of the “Space for Sanitation” project is to provide an early warning system for likely outbreaks of disease. By combining the data streams from a wide variety of terrestrial and space-based sensing technologies, the platform will deliver actionable insights including new insights not readily available from any single source. As an example, the system can monitor the impact of illegal dumping of faecal sludge in water courses, the flow of waste, and its interaction with the local environment and local populations.

The project brings together some of the world’s leading experts in sanitation, developers of emerging sensor technology, telecommunications and decentralised faecal sludge treatment solutions. Project partners include Biomass Controls PBC, Water Research Commission, Center for WaSH-AID – Duke University, IBM, Mindseed, iPoint, University of KwaZulu-Natal and eThekwini Municipality among others.

Commenting on the announcement, TBC Director of Operations, Alexandra Knezovich said “The Toilet Board Coalition is proud to partner with the European Space Agency in support of Woodco Renewable Energy and their Space for Sanitation project. We believe there is great impact and business opportunity at the nexus of smart technologies, sanitation and health and are excited to see Woodco’s promising work in this area.

Congratulating Woodco Renewable Energy on its success, Tom Kelly, Divisional Manager Enterprise Ireland said “I am very pleased to see yet another example of an Enterprise Ireland backed company combining innovative technologies, with advanced satellite systems, in this case, supporting healthcare in remote regions of Africa, in partnership with international development agencies. It further demonstrates how Ireland’s investment in ESA is supporting Irish companies to develop solutions that make a real difference in people’s lives, in this case improving the health of people in Africa. It is very encouraging to see the growing number of Enterprise Ireland client companies leading the way in Europe in research and innovation and in combining space systems with innovative technologies to address critical global issues.

Declan Crosse, Technical Director, Woodco Renewable Energy Ltd. commented “Woodco is privileged to lead a world class multidisciplinary team in addressing the global sanitation crisis by developing smart solutions that will have a global reach and impact the lives of millions of people. We thank ESA, TBC, Enterprise Ireland and our many project partners for their support and work on this important project.