The Nobel prize in chemistry in 1918 was awarded to a German man named Fritz Haber for a process to fix nitrogen from the air. The technique, which later became known as the Haber-bosch process, is probably one of the four or five most important inventions of the last century.
Because nitrogen feeds crops. And as our population boomed during the 20th century, nitrogen fertilizer became the core fuel of our food system. It is estimated to have fed about half of the world's population.
Nitrogen fertilizer is incredibly important, and we still produce the vast majority of our fertilizer using this same process. This has all sorts of ramifications that are less than ideal for farmers and crops, but in addition to that, it has become a major source of global warming pollution – around 5 percent of emissions when you include both the production and application of nitrogen fertilizer.
So it's a big climate issue, and a big ag issue. One company, Nitricity, has a unique technology to produce nitrogen fertilizer at point-of-use, using only air, water and electricity.
In this episode, Nico Pinkowski, the company's CEO and co-founder, joins us to talk about the world of nitrogen fertilizer, and how you can capture lightning in a bottle to let farmers take control of this key resource.
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