Update on Georgia Tech's Sanivation Team via Andrew Foote

Hi Friends and Family,

I wanted to give you an update on what I have been up to for the past 4 months. As always, there has been plenty of fun and travel intermingled.


The Sanivation team has been in Chile for the past three months as apart of a Chilean government funded entrepreneurship program, Start Up Chile.

We’ve been down here creating solutions to help the 2.6 billion people that lack access to sanitation. Some say, bigger the problem, better the opportunity. Our opportunities are in toilets, excreta treatment, and excreta reuse systems. Really, it is just better ways to deal with human waste, pee and poop.

Start Up Chile Program:

An entrepreneurship culture is being cultivated here in Santiago, Chile. The government awards start-up companies with $40,000, connections to business elite, and a collaborative space with entrepreneurs from around the globe. This network is powerful. Tina Seelig and Vivek Wadhwa are Start Up Chile (SUP) advisors and spoke to the community here in Santiago. We’ve personally been linked up with Indian entreprenuers, mentored by seasoned company founders, and invited to speak at weekly meetups. The energy here is contagious. Quoting This Week in Startups, “Chile is ahead of the game. It is really impressive what they have got going on down there”.

Our Progress:

People have been installing solar ovens and solar toilets in Chile for the past 20 years! While these toilets do not decontaminate poop, talking to these implementers has taught us a lot.  With their input and our research on poop collection systems in Africa we see a huge gap (pain) in how poop is disposed.  We are now more focused on poop disposal, specifically, designing small-scale centralized decontamination systems. The Gates Foundation announced in July 2011 they were dedicating $42 million to toilets and thus better toilets are coming to the market. However many of these toilet systems don’t know what to do with the crap when the toilets are full. We think there is value in processing crap, in fact it is our biggest principle, “Shit Matters.”

We linked up with Un Techo Para Chile, termed the most famous NGO in Chile, to help us talk to potential users in slums of Santiago and investigate future potential within its newly created parent organization Un Techo Para Mi Pais. Un Techo is present in 18 Latin American countries and focuses on housing for slums. We visited over 6 different slums with over 250 households and have selected a community to implement a prototype here in Santiago.

Creating a viable business plan, has been the area where many sanitation innovations are lacking. Recognizing this, we’ve contacted, reached out, or worked with other groups who are operating on the ground with the bottom of the pyramid sector of sanitation such as MIT’s Sanergy and Un Techo Para Chile. We are searching for more sustaining business models and value propositions for future funding.

Another Start Up Chile participant or SUPer, as we call them, got us a spot at leading biotechnology research center. Here we build our prototypes and run moisture and temperature experiments. It also will serve as the platform for demonstrating pathogen inactivation along with the help of the veterinarian school at Universidad de Chile.

What's Next:

Over the next 3 months, we are expanding our search for value in the sanitation chain in both community initiatives and decentralized waste treatment systems. We are in contact with organizations in India, Kenya, and South East Asia, and are looking for funding and support in each of those areas, while making a best case scenario for our system. Our specific goals we are looking to accomplish are below:

-Demonstrate pathogen inactivation in prototype

-Publish a paper discussing the feasibility of solar energy to treat fecal sludge

-Have a theoretical business model to show aid organizations and municipalities

-Create presentations with the theme “Articulating the sanitation crisis in a clearer way”

-Apply for funding to do a market based pilot in another country


Start-Up Chile is an engine of creativity. Sanivation is designing small community level waste treatment systems. We have great partners down here.

We want to go to a country with more of a need for sanitation improvement.

We are looking and applying for funds to make this happen.