Biorealis Systems, Inc.

Statement of Purpose

Adam Smith

Earth as seen from the sun
In recent years, a view of the global economy has emerged that sees it more like a natural self-organizing ecosystem than a machine -- the implicit view of classical economics.

Such self-organizing systems have a number of characteristics in common. Whether we are talking about molecules cooperating to form cells or organisms cooperating to form ecosystems or buyers and sellers cooperating to form markets and economies, in each case, the 'global effects' are spontaneously generated by the collective action of the constituent individuals acting in their own self interest. No altruism is required.
Constructed wetlands pond Ecologically engineered, biological wastewater treatment systems provide another example, where vast numbers of microorganisms collectively produce 'global' quantities of clean water. The task of the ecological engineer is to understand the needs of the organisms, to create an environment which serves those needs, to seed it with selected organisms, and then let nature do the rest. When properly done, natural processes co-evolve a diverse, robust, self-sustaining system without requiring further human intervention.

So here's the question: If the global economy does indeed function as a natural ecosystem -- in which emerging technologies compete for capital, as living organisms in a natural ecosystem compete for energy, could design principles used by ecological engineers also be usefully applied to stimulate the development and proliferation of technologies that enhance the environment, rather than degrade it?
Pilot Scale Digester Biorealis Systems, Inc. (BSI) is interested in exploring this question. Our operating premise is that, if useful 'eco-products' which are capable of enhancing the local environment in some small way (i.e. by producing cleaner air or water, reducing fossil fuel use, etc.) could be made widely available at a cost low enough to be adopted and used on a sufficiently massive scale, net positive global effects would follow.

Our reasoning runs thus: If (1) the product works reliably well, (2) economic payback is attractive (capital and operating costs are sufficiently low relative to the local cost of water and/or fuel, etc.), and, (3) product information is freely available and widely distributed, then large numbers of people will purchase (or build) and install them in their own economic self-interest. The more people that adopt and use the technology, the greater the net global effect. The magnitude of the effect is directly related to the size of the market, and the size of the market is primarily a function of availability and affordability.

If this argument is valid, the next questions become: (1) how do you get the cost of the product down low enough that it is affordable by enough people to make a difference, and (2) how do you get the information to that many people.

We submit that traditional product development methods can not be used to achieve these goals.  While our goal - as 'global' ecological engineers - is to produce the maximum number of units at minimum cost to the end user, conventional patent-based product development strategies are intended to limit competition in order to increase the return on investment for the developers.  This approach may be necessary to amass the capital required to develop large scale, centralized technologies, but it can be shown to actually hinder development of appropriate, small-scale, decentralized technologies. 

Under conventional product development methods, the combined costs of patent protection, product development, marketing, distribution and liability protection - and the cost of money required to finance these items and return profits to investors - can exceed the basic cost of materials and labor by a considerable amount, dramatically increasing the final product cost - and limiting the potential market for the product to the more affluent. There is little demand for yet another $5,000+ package wastewater treatment plant or composting toilet. But there is huge demand for waste treatment technologies that are simple, reliable, affordable and user maintainable.
BSI has developed and tested, (or is developing) various of these so-called 'eco-products', including a batch feed composting toilet, an anaerobic methane digester, and a wastewater treatment unit. Other products are in the pipeline. Primary design criteria for each of these products include minimum cost, minimum energy use, ease of maintenance, and most importantly, that they be able to be built in small local shops without requiring sophisticated tools or skills.
As they are developed, BSI intends to put these inventions either into the public domain, or "Copyleft". Our goal is to provide: (1) complete, detailed "how-to-build" information, (2) consulting services and technical support required to set up and operate small local manufacturing facilities, (3) individual system components, (4) complete kits, and/or (5) fully assembled units ready to install - effectively covering all bases.

This work is still in progress, but for a preliminary look, feel free to browse around this website. (Note: The digester project currently has the most information available on-line, including a free on-line
design tool (custom design your own system), construction details, and photos. More info is on it's way...)

And then please stop by the forum and leave your comments and questions. We hope to grow this into a database of useful information freely accessible to anyone interested in increasing their own local self-reliance. (And together, maybe, improving the world...)

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