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Bill Gates’ foundation helped invent $350 toilets powered by worms

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Bill Gates pooBill Gates held up a beaker of human feces at the reinvented toilet expo in Beijing on November 6, 2018 to prove a point: unsanitary conditions are dangerous for our health.Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

  • Worm toilets require no traditional flushing and aren’t hooked up to a sewer system — instead, worms compost human waste.
  • More than 4,000 such “Tiger Toilets” have been installed to date across India, in homes of people who were previously defecating in the open.
  • The worm toilets smell a lot better than a pit latrine, and don’t breed mosquitoes either.
  • Here’s how a $350 toilet powered by worms could change the world and save lives. 

Worms may not have spines, but they’re doing some back-breaking sewer work in more than 4,000 toilets across India. 

Since 2015, a creative new type of toilet called the Tiger Toilet has been popping up outside homes and schools around the country. From the outside, this toilet looks like any other pit latrine. But it doesn’t smell like one. Instead, it comes with a built-in population of tiger worms. 

“Their natural breeding, natural habitat is in cow dung heaps, or horse sh*t heaps, that kind of thing,” Ajeet Oak, director of the Tiger Toilet company, told Business Insider. “Poop. That’s where they like to live.”

The toilets involve no traditional flushing and aren’t hooked up to a sewer system. Instead, the worms are contained in a container below the toilet, and they feast on feces. The creatures’ activity leaves behind a mix of water, carbon dioxide, and a small amount of wormy compost (that’s technically the worms’ poo, though it’s much less toxic and more nutrient-rich than ours).

The resulting water isn’t clean enough to drink, but it “can go into the ground and it sort of gets filtered naturally from there on,” Oak said. No wastewater treatment plant needed. 

To get the worm system to market, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded at least $4.8 million in grant money to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to perfect the technology. Tiger Toilets also received $170,000 for initial testing in India, Myanmar and Uganda from USAID. Now, after years of development and field testing around the world, the technology is finally reaching people who need it most.

“These are people who are getting toilets for the first time,” Oak said, adding that before getting a Tiger Toilet, “they would go out in the field.” 

Bill Gates recently told a crowd in Beijing that he’s ready to spend an additional $200 million developing technology for next-generation toilets like these that can operate without mainframe sewer systems. 

“We estimate that by 2030, the opportunity here is over $6 billion a year,” Gates said.

Read More: Bill Gates is so obsessed with redesigning the world’s toilets, he brought a jar of poop onstage in Beijing to prove it

How worms clean excrement

Tiger worms, or Eisenia fetida if you prefer the scientific term, are animals that love to eat waste. This makes them a perfect composting solution, and they especially love what falls into their Tiger Toilet compartment. 

“These worms, they won’t escape on their own, because they won’t survive in just soil,” Oak said. They need our human waste to live.

sprinkling the worms Tiger ToiletsThese worms love eating human waste. The byproduct they create is mostly just water.Courtesy of Bear Valley Ventures

The Tiger Toilet system costs about $350 USD to install and requires no connection to drainage pipes or a mainline sewer.

Once a person does their business in the toilet, they send their waste down into the worm-filled compartment below using a pour-flush system, usually with a little bucket of water. (There are no handles or automatic flushing devices in the Tiger Toilet.)

The toilet’s cleaning stats are impressive: they process feces, remove 99% of the pathogens, and leave behind no more than 15% of the waste by weight, in the form of compost material. The rest becomes water (around 60-70%) and carbon dioxide. That’s better performance than a septic tank.

Plus, the leftover byproduct makes for “excellent fertilizer,” Oak said, because its mix of nitrogen, phosphorous, carbon, and potassium is good for growing plants. 

Tiger Toilets (and Tiger worm-powered treatment plants, like the one pictured below) also don’t breed mosquitoes or attract other flying menaces.

Tiger toilet digestersTiger Toilets

“Users find the toilets preferable to traditional latrines,” USAID wrote of the toilets during field testing in 2015. “Because the worms break down the solid waste, the toilets emit fewer odors and attract fewer flies than traditional latrines.”

The earliest editions of Tiger Toilets are now more than five years old and their worm compartments haven’t needed any maintenance yet — the slimy creatures are still chomping away. Eventually, after about eight to 10 years, the company expects some toilet maintenance to be required. At that point, the worm bin, which isn’t visible to toilet users, must be emptied.

It’s not a terrible job — “you don’t have to handle sludge,” Oak said. 

Simply remove the lid of the toilet, exposing the top layer of worm castings — their leftovers from years of hard work. Then shovel it out and use it in a garden as fertilizer. Then the worm population will be ready to work again. 

Why people need worm toilets

Tiger Toilet of Thamaji Dhokal, in the village of Nayfad, Pune district, India.Rohit Joshi

The tiny worms that make their home in filth are performing a lifesaving task for humans. 

Across the developing world, people without a safe place to go to the bathroom can die because of unsanitary conditions. Diarrhea kills 525,000 children under five annually around the world “as a result of poor hygiene,” according to the World Health Organization

Improper hygiene also causes the global economy to miss out on an estimated $223 billion USD per year.

Additionally, open defecation can be a dangerous situation for women. A 2016 study in India found that women who defecate in the open are twice as likely to be sexually assaulted by a stranger as those who have a toilet in their house.

Tiger Toilet and Mangal Shirke in the village of Adachiwadi, Pune district, India.Mangal Shirke who lives in the village of Adachiwadi celebrates outside her first at-home toilet.Gouri Thakar

In India, millions of people relieve themselves outdoors on a daily basis — 40% of the country’s population, according to the World Bank’s estimate from 2015.

The country has set a “Swachh Bharat Mission” goal of becoming open-defecation free this year, but it’s unlikely to be fully successful, since even people who can access a toilet don’t always use it. A 2018 survey of more than 9,800 people and 150 local government officials across India found that one in four people in rural northern provinces have access to latrines but don’t use them. 

Some people choose to relieve themselves in the open for compelling reasons. An Indian woman identified only as “Veer” told Meenakshi Dalal, a program and communications specialist with USAID/India, that men block the way to her community toilet, taunting and harassing women.

“They dress up as women, they get in line with us, they might touch us,” Dalal recalled Veer telling her. “Every few days someone is raped. On one side of the toilet is where we live and on the other side it’s jungle. They can pull us there.”

Tiger toilets is testing out some options for crowded slums like Veer’s — a kind of downsized, city-friendly version of the worm toilet — but they’re not ready yet.

“The challenge is to have something for a family which can be put in a very small house,” Oak said. “We’re calling it the Urban Tiger Toilet.” 

India’s government has also started offering cash incentives to people who install toilets in their homes, which makes a Tiger Toilet even more affordable for families who are getting their first toilet. 

Bringing worm toilets to the world

Tiger Toilets Santosh Sathe, in the village of Bhalgudi, Pune district, India.Rohit Patankar

Lixil Group, the parent company that owns toilet-industry giants American Standard and Grohe, is also interested in Tiger Toilets. The company recently signed a letter of intent to bring Tiger Toilets to scale.

“Eventually we want to have something that’s really sleek and you can place anywhere,” Daigo Ishiyama, Lixil’s  marketing and technology director, told Business Insider.

But he said that will take some time: “We’re dealing with living creatures — you know, worms.”

Schoolkids and their Tiger Toilet in the village of Adachiwadi, Pune district, India.Rahul Aluri

Still, this kind of game-changing new invention — a toilet that requires no traditional sewer system — is an exciting prospect for Gates. He has even compared it to the invention of the personal computer. 

“A whole new product category is being introduced here,” he said.

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The 3 Best Canadian Tech Stocks I Would Buy With $3,000 for 2021

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The majority of the Canadian tech stocks went through the roof in 2020 and delivered outsized returns. However, tech stocks witnessed sharp selling in the past 10 days, reflecting valuation concerns and expected normalization in demand. 

As these high-growth tech stocks shed some of their gains, I believe it’s time to accumulate them at current price levels to outperform the broader markets by a significant margin in 2021. Let’s dive into three tech stocks that have witnessed a pullback and are looking attractive bets. 

Lightspeed POS

Lightspeed POS (TSX:LSPD)(NYSE:LSPD) stock witnessed strong selling and is down about 33% in the last 10 days. I believe the selloff in Lightspeed presents an excellent opportunity for investors to invest in a high-growth and fundamentally strong company. 

Lightspeed witnessed an acceleration in demand for its digital products and services amid the pandemic. However, with the easing of lockdown measures and economic reopening, the demand for its products and services could normalize. Further, it faces tough year-over-year comparisons. 

Despite the normalization in demand, I believe the ongoing shift toward the omnichannel payment platform could continue to drive Lightspeed’s revenues and customer base. Besides, its accretive acquisitions, growing scale, and geographic expansion are likely to accelerate its growth and support the uptrend in its stock. Lightspeed stock is also expected to benefit from its growing average revenue per user, innovation, and up-selling initiatives.     

Shopify 

Like Lightspeed, Shopify (TSX:SHOP)(NYSE:SHOP) stock has also witnessed increased selling and has corrected by about 22% in the past 10 days. Notably, during the most recent quarter, Shopify said that it expects the vaccination and reopening of the economy to drive some of the consumer spending back to offline retail and services. Further, Shopify expects the pace of shift toward the e-commerce platform to return to the normal levels in 2021, which accelerated in 2020.

Despite the normalization in the pace of growth, a strong secular shift towards online commerce could continue to bring ample growth opportunities for Shopify, and the recent correction in its stock can be seen as a good buying opportunity. 

Shopify’s initiatives to ramp up its fulfillment network, international expansion and growing adoption of its payment platform are likely to drive strong growth in revenues and GMVs. Moreover, its strong new sales and marketing channels bode well for future growth. I remain upbeat on Shopify’s growth prospects and expect the company to continue to multiply investors’ wealth with each passing year. 

Docebo 

Docebo (TSX:DCBO)(NASDAQ:DCBO) stock is down about 21% in the last 10 days despite sustained momentum in its base business. The enterprise learning platform provider’s key performance metrics remain strong, implying that investors should capitalize on its low stock price and start accumulating its stock at the current levels. 

Docebo’s annual recurring revenue or ARR (a measure of future revenues) continues to grow at a brisk pace. Its ARR is expected to mark 55-57% growth in Q4. Meanwhile, its top line could increase by 48-52% during the same period. The company’s average contract value is growing at a healthy rate and is likely to increase by 22-24% during Q4. 

With the continued expansion of its customer base, geographical expansion, innovation, and opportunistic acquisitions, Docebo could deliver strong returns in 2021 and beyond.

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Manitoba to invest $6.5 million in new systems

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WINNIPEG – The province of Manitoba is investing $6.5 million over three years to replace technical systems used in healthcare facilities, including replacing current voice dictation and transcription services with more modern systems and upgrading the Provincial Health Contact Centre (PHCC)’s triage, call-recording and telephone systems, Health and Seniors Care Minister Heather Stefanson (pictured) announced.

“Our government is investing in the proper maintenance of information and communications technology to ensure digital health information can be safely stored and shared as needed,” said Stefanson. “These systems will ensure healthcare facilities can continue to provide high-quality services and allow Manitobans to get faster access to healthcare resources and information.”

Dictation, transcription and voice-recognition services are used by healthcare providers to write reports. There are currently approximately 80 healthcare sites across Manitoba using some combination of dictation, transcription and voice-recognition services. Many of these systems are nearing the end of their usable lifespans.

“Across our health system, radiologists and nuclear medicine physicians use voice-dictation services to help create diagnostic reports when reading imaging studies like ultrasound, nuclear medicine studies, X-rays, angiography, MRI and CT scans,” said Dr. Marco Essig, provincial specialty lead, diagnostic imaging, Shared Health. “Enhanced dictation and voice-recognition services will enable us to work more efficiently and provide healthcare providers with quicker access to these reports that support the diagnoses and treatment of Manitobans every day.”

The project will replace telephone-based dictation and transcription with voice-recognition functions, upgrade voice-recognition services for diagnostic imaging and enhance voice-recognition tools for mobile devices.

“Investing in more modern voice-transcription services will help our health-care workers do the administrative part of their jobs more quickly and effectively so they can get back to the most important part of their work – providing top-level healthcare and protecting Manitobans,” said Stefanson. “The transition to the new system will be made seamlessly so that services disruptions, which can lead to patient care safety risks, will not occur.”

The new systems will be compatible with other existing systems, will decrease turnaround times to improve patient care and will be standardized across the province to reduce ongoing costs and allow regional facilities to share resources as needed, Stefanson added.

The PHCC is a one-stop shop for incoming and outgoing citizen contact and supports programs such as Health Links–Info Santé, TeleCARE TeleSOINS and After-Hours Physician Access, as well as after-hours support services to public health, medical officers of health, home care and Manitoba Families.

The current vendor that supplies communications support to the PHCC is no longer providing service, making it an opportune time to invest in an upgraded system that will provide better service to Manitobans, the minister said, adding the project will provide the required systems and network infrastructure to continue providing essential services now and for the near future.

“The PHCC makes more than 650,000 customer service calls to Manitobans per year to a broad spectrum of clients with varied health issues. This reduces the need for people to visit a physician, urgent care or emergency departments,” said Stefanson. “The upgrade will also allow Manitobans in many communities to continue accessing the support they need from their home or local health centre, reducing the need for unnecessary travel.”

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Telus and UHN deliver services to the marginalized

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Telus’s Health for Good program has launched the latest of its specially equipped vans to provide medical services to the homeless and underserved, this time to the population of Toronto’s west end. The project relies not only on the hardware and software – the vans and technology – but on the care delivered by trained and socially sensitive medical professionals.

For the Toronto project, those professionals are working at the University Health Network’s Social Medicine program and the Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre. The city’s Parkdale community, in the west end, has a high concentration of homeless and marginalized people.

First launched in 2014, Telus’s Health for Good program has delivered mobile clinics to 13 Canadian cities, from Victoria to Halifax. Originally designed to deliver primary care, the program pivoted to meet the needs of patients in the COVID-19 pandemic, said Nimtaz Kanji, Calgary-based director of Telus Social Purpose Programs.

Angela Robertson of the Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre (CHC) asserted that marginalized people are particularly susceptible to the spread of COVID-19, as they don’t have access to the basic precautions that prevent its spread.

The clinic is located near a Pizza Pizza franchise; homeless people shelter under its overhang on the weekends, she said. Some have encampments under nearby bridges.

“The public health guidelines and requirements call for things that individuals who are homeless don’t have,” Robertson said. “If the response calls for isolation, that suggests people have places to isolate in.”

And in the shelter system, pre-COVID, the environment was very congregate, with many people in the same physical space, said Robertson. Some homeless persons, in order to keep themselves safe, have created encampments, and the city has opened up some hotel rooms across the city to create spaces for physical distancing.

Even proper hand-washing and hygiene becomes a challenge for the homeless.

“COVID calls for individuals to practice constant hand-washing. Oftentimes, individuals who are homeless use public washroom facilities that may be in restaurants or coffee shops, and many of those spaces are now closed. So there are limitations to accessing those facilities. It’s not like they’re in a community where there are public hand-washing facilities for people who are homeless.”

The mobile health clinic allows the CHC to take “pop-up testing” into communities where there is high positivity and where additional COVID testing is needed. The CHC can take testing into congregate sites and congregate housing to provide more testing, Robertson said.

“The other piece that we will use the van to do is, when the vaccine supply gets back online, and when the health system gets to doing community vaccinations … we hope that we can be part of that effort.”

COVID has contributed to a spike in cases of Toronto’s other pandemic: opioid overdoses. Some community members are reluctant to seek care because of the stigma attached to substance abuse; and COVID has a one-two punch for users.

The first rule of substance abuse is, don’t use alone; always be with someone who can respond to a potential overdose, ideally someone who can administer Nalaxone to reverse the effects of the overdose, Robertson said. “It’s substance abuse 101,” and the need for social distancing makes this impossible.

Secondly, COVID has affected the supply chain of street drugs. As a result, they’re being mixed increasingly with “toxic” impurities like Fentanyl that can be deadly.

The van itself is a Mercedes Sprinter, modified by architectural firm éKM architecture et aménagement and builder Zone Technologie, both based in Montréal. According to Car and Driver magazine, the Sprinter line – with 21 cargo models and 10 passenger versions – is “considered by many to be the king of cargo and passenger vans.”

Kanji said the platform was chosen for its reputation for reliability and robustness.

While the configuration is customized for each mobile clinic, it generally consists of two sections: A practitioner’s workstation and a more spacious and private examination room, so patients can receive treatment with privacy and dignity, Kanji said. The Parkdale clinic is 92 square feet.

“While the layouts vary across regions, they typically include an examination table and health practitioners’ workstation, including equipment necessary to provide primary healthcare,” the Telus vice-president of provider solutions wrote in an e-mail interview. The Parkdale Queen West mobile clinic is designed for primary medical services, including wound care, mobile COVID-19 testing and vaccination efforts, harm reduction services, mental healthcare and counseling.

The clinic equipped with an electronic medical record (EMR) from TELUS Health and TELUS LTE Wi-Fi network technology.

Practitioners will be able to collect and store patient data, examine a patient’s results over time, and provide better continuity of care to those marginalized citizens who often would have had undocumented medical histories.

The EMR system is Telus Health’s PS Suite (formerly Practice Solutions). It is an easy-to-use, customizable solution for general and specialty practices that captures, organizes, and displays patient information in a user-friendly way. The solution allows for the electronic management of patient charts and scheduling, receipt of labs and hospital reports directly into the EMR, and personalization of workflows with customizable templates, toolbars, and encounter assistants.

But like others tested for COVID, it’s a 24-48 hour wait for results. Pop-up or not, how does the mobile team get results to patients who have no fixed address?

The CHC set up a centre for testing in a tent at the Waterfront Community Centre. Swabs are sent to the lab. “We are responsible for connecting back with community members and their results,” Robertson said.

“This is the value of having Parkdale Queen West being in front of the testing, because many of the community members who are homeless we know through our other services, and there is some trust in folks either coming to us to make arrangements to collect their results, or we know where they are.”

This is a key element of the program, said Kanji – leveraging community trust. In Vancouver downtown east side, for example, where there is a high concentration of marginalized members of the indigenous community, nurse practitioners are accompanied by native elders in a partnership with the Kilala Lelum Health Centre.

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