Menachem Tabanpour, Phillip Barak PhD, and Mauricio Avila PhD established Nutrient Recovery & Upcycling, LLC in 2011 with the following mission:
“The mission of the Company is to serve the long-term benefit of people and the environment by imagining, researching, and developing systems that recover and upcycle low-grade resources into high-value products. This mission will be pursued while rooted in science, ethics and transparency as the cornerstones of our decision making process and business practices. To aid this process, we use life cycle assessments as part of our methods to identify and pursue commercial and philanthropic projects that produce long-term improvements of the human condition and the environment.”
In 2002, Menachem Tabanpour, Phillip Barak PhD, and Mauricio Avila PhD began research on the controlled crystallization of struvite, a phosphorus mineral, for entirely academic purposes in the Department of Soil Science at the University of Wisconsin –Madison. After considering that struvite is a nuisance in wastewater treatment plants and also valuable in agriculture, they focused their research on recovering phosphorus from wastewater to solve the struvite problem. After working with struvite for five years, a serendipitous event led to the discovery that another mineral also valuable to agriculture called brushite that could advantageously be recovered instead. This led to the founding of NRU and the commercialization its first product.
Upcycling – a term coined by Reiner Pilz to describe the process of converting waste into new materials or products of better quality and higher value.