We report on the results of a pilot experiment designed to test the potential of filamentous fungi (mold) to reduce solid waste (feces) while converting it into a consumable, high protein food product. Feces represent an untapped resource. Filamentous fungi are natural decomposers with the ability to use this resource. Many filamentous fungi are safe to eat. We examined growth in order to determine the conditions which maximized the rate of conversion of solid waste into fungal biomass. For this pilot, we compared the effect of different lengths of incubation, different methods of aeration, and different available surface area. The initial study resulted in rates of conversion as high as 75% (3.75g of mold produced from 5g of solid waste). Fungal growth also appeared to reduce odor. Although initially proposed as a mechanism to deal with waste and food storage issues on long-term space missions, this project holds the potential to benefit waste processing in diverse situations including large livestock confinement operations and sewage treatment facilities. This work was supported by a grant from the Indiana Space Grant Consortium (INSGC).
Alex Zapata, Elizabeth Phillippi, Blair Mitchell, Jon Schoer, and Michael Watters. "Testing the Potential of Using Fungi to Convert Human Waste into Protein" Celebration of Undergraduate Scholarship.. Apr. 2011. Available at: http://works.bepress.com/michael_watters/1