Sustainable fertilisers from recycled micronutrients are extracted from used alkaline batteries

Farmlands and food plants globally suffer from micronutrient deficiency. 51% of the cereal soils worldwide are deficient in zinc and manganese. Micronutrient deficiencies in farmlands have consequences for crop yields and direct consequences on people’s health.

Out of all the batteries in circulation around the world, around 75-85% are alkaline batteries. This means that the raw material for the Tracegrow’s solution is abundantly available worldwide. Currently, a large portion of these batteries ends up in landfills, where they can risk contaminating the environment. Tracegrow’s innovation is globally scalable, providing countries around the world with a much better alternative for landfilling.

Tracegrow provides new micronutrient fertilisers made from suitable recycled trace nutrients. The nutrients are extracted from industrial waste and side streams, and the company R&D is concentrated on the processes for their recycling and reuse. With Tracegrow technology, over 90% of the trace elements in alkaline batteries can be reused. This means healthier and more productive farmland, which means an increase in global food production.

Our solution can effectively double the recycling efficiency for alkaline batteries compared to the options that are available now.

Mikko Joensuu, CEO of Tracegrow

Ecologically extracted zinc and manganese from alkaline battery black mass

Tracegrow has been developing its technology in cooperation with EIT RawMaterials partner, University of Oulu, for several years. In 2020, the Tracegrow team received EIT RawMaterials Booster funding in response to the COVID-19 crisis as part of the EIT Crisis Response Initiative. The EIT RawMaterials funding for Tracegrow was aimed at the development of new environmentally sustainable fertiliser products and the further development of their existing product, ZM-Grow. In the next few years, Tracegrow is aiming for significant expansion into the global marketplace and growing their product family of circular economy fertilisers.

EIT RawMaterials funding enabled the launch of a new ZMC-Grow product to the market in autumn 2020, as well as the R&D of a new manganese-containing product, M-Grow, with which the R&D is still ongoing. The R&D team also optimised the current main process, where ZM-Grow is produced from alkaline batteries. This has enabled an increase in recycling percentage.

The recycled and purified trace elements are used as ZM-Grow micronutrient fertiliser, enabling higher crop yields for the farmers. Ongoing activities to extract micronutrients from other waste and side fractions as well. The main product ZM-Grow and the new copper product ZMC-Grow are sold in 14 countries. Waste copper-containing ZMC-Grow already launched, manganese-containing M-Grow in the R&D phase. More R&D going on in the background to create new products from other waste and side streams.

We, as spraying operators, have been very satisfied with the functionality of ZM-Grow. It mixes to water effortlessly, and simultaneous spraying with the most important herbicides and nitrogen solutions have been easy.

Jarkko Haasala, Spraying Operator, Haasala Oy

Tracegrow’s technology environmental impact includes:

  • Recycling recovery rates of 90% to 99% for zinc, manganese, iron and potassium
  • Significant reduction of CO2 emissions. The process operates at a temperature of less than 100°C, compared to more than 1300° required by the conventional smelting process.
  • No wastewater, e.g. process instrument wash waters, are recycled into production.
  • Energy savings
  • Simplified process implementation: the ability to scale the production to international markets

Tracegrow is an ideal raw material partner for us, and the cooperation aligns with our goal of relocating our fertiliser production to our home country. Bringing recycling know-how to fertiliser production and food production, and locally grown food is precisely how it should go.

Juhani Muhonen, CEO of Cemagro Oy

Our farmers will see the value in Tracegrow products and use their state-of-the-art micronutrients, as it will also be affordable and increase their productivities.

Bernardo Arnaud, Director of AMD Agro

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