Measuring Total Nutrient Content in Liquid Swine Manure

Request Number REQ3338701
Due Date March 31, 2017
Author Jos Cenens
Request for Proposal Details
RFP Title
Measuring Total Nutrient Content in Liquid Swine Manure
RFP Description

NineSigma, representing a European food company, invites proposals for a technology that can determine the total concentration of nitrogen and other macronutrients (phosphorus and potassium) in liquid swine manure. Among nitrogen, ammonium (NH4+) is the most important form but also nitrate (NO3-), nitrite (NO2-) and organic nitrogen compounds should be determined. The preferred method is fast, in line and must not rely on taking samples for lab evaluation.


Nitrogen concentration of swine slurry varies with a number of factors like age of the slurry, storage and handling methods, environmental conditions, animal nutrition management, and treatments. The determination of total nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in swine manure is important if the manure (treated or untreated) is to be used as a nutrient source for crops. Compared with chemical fertilizers the dosing on the fields is imprecise due to uncertainties in the concentration of macronutrients. This can lead to exceeding the legal limits for farmland disposal or inadequate dosing resulting in sub-optimal crop yields.


NineSigma’s client is using in line  conductivity sensors for the indirect determination of nitrogen  and potassium, through the measurement of electrical conductivity of raw swine slurry.


In some farms, the client treats the swine slurry with a nitrification-denitrification (N-DN) system, changing the analytic composition of the slurry. In these cases, the use of in line  conductivity sensors no longer works well for the determination of nitrogen. With the N-DN treatment, the amount of total N decreases between 50 to 90%, and in part it changes to other nitrogenous species like nitrites and nitrates [NO2-, NO3-].


NineSigma’s client is looking for a technique that can be used in line for fast and accurate  analysis of nitrogen content, and also phosphorus and potassium, during collection, treatment, transport and application of swine slurry to farmland.


Key Success Criteria

The successful technology will:

  • Give readings of organic nitrogen, NH4+,  NO2-, NO3-, and also total phosphorus (P-PO43- and organic phosphorus) and total potassium:
    • Total nitrogen concentration range from 0 to 5000 mg/l (from 0 to 2000 mg/l for each specie: organic nitrogen, NH4+,  NO2-, NO3-)
    • Total phosphorus concentration range from 0 to 5000 mg/l
    • Total potassium concentration range from 0 to 5000 mg/l
    • Accuracy of 5% on the reading
    • Measurement ideally compensated for changes in temperature and pH
      • Be able to work in a temperature range of 0 to 50°C
  • Be robust and have a long lifetime.
  • Have a fast response time (preferably less than 3 s)
  • Need limited calibration – preferable easy or automatic without operator intervention (at maximum once or twice per year)
  • Be low maintenance and have parts that are easy to replace
  • Be affordable

Note:   next to the determination of nutrients on raw swine slurry and treatment effluents, the possibility to determine macronutrients on solid fraction of swine slurry or in soils is also of interest.


Anticipated Project Phases or Project Plan

Phase 1 – Proof of concept

  • Demonstration of the nutrient sensing technology on lab samples
  • Evaluation of robustness of method and suitability for use in a farm environment


Phase 2 – Commercial development

  • Development and integration into client’s farms


Criteria for Moving from Phase 1 to Phase 2

Successful demonstration of total nitrogen, total phosphorus and total potassium determination


Possible Approaches

Possible approaches might include, but are not limited to:

  • Nitrogen sensing based on small FTIR probes,
  • Small spectrophotometers (IR, NIR, Raman)
  • Piezo/MEMS/ based sensing
  • Membrane-covered, gas-sensitive sensor that operates on a potentiometric principle
  • Amperometric sensors


Approaches not of interest

The following approaches are not of interest:


  • Sampling and subsequent lab analysis.
  • Systems that involve manual operations for the determination.


Preferred Collaboration types
Items to be submitted

Your response should address the following:

  • Non-confidential description of proposed technology
    • Measurement principle
    • Development stage (ready to commercialize, commercialized)
  • Current performance
    • Precision
    • Speed of detection
    • Type of macronutrients (N, P, K) and nitrogen species that can be determined
    • Supporting data
  • Issues that need to be solved for use in manure streams
  • Team background and related experience


Appropriate responses to this Request

Responses from companies (small to large), researchers, consultants, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, or inventors are welcome.  For example:


You represent a company specializing in macronutrients (N, P, K) measurement on organic fertilizers and have a nutrient sensor that is suitable for this request.

You represent a university research department that has a bench-scale demonstration of a suitable sensor that is ready for transfer to commercial use.


Area of Interest
Request Priority
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