Best Sustainable Development Impact

The United Nations Sustainable Development goals (SDG) outline a procedure to ensure a healthy and more sustainable future for the planet. These consist of a total of 17 goals, which address global challenges that the earth and humanity is facing (UN, 25.10.2020).

With our project, Mossphate, we considered three SDGs: goal 6, 14 and 15.

Goal 6: Ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

We strongly believe our project addresses the two following objectives of goal number 6: 6.3. Global improvement of water quality by reducing pollution, the proportion of untreated wastewater and increasing recycling and safe reuse. 6.6. Protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes.

The main goal of Mossphate is to provide a sustainable synthetic biology approach to close the phosphate cycle by genetically engineering the moss Physcomitrella patens for an enhanced uptake and accumulation of phosphate.

Agriculture itself is characterised by altering the environment, specially through nutrient pollution by the use of fertilizers. One of the key elements present in fertilizers is phosphate, the accumulation of which is believed to be one of the main conditioning factors for inland water eutrophication (Cordell, 2010), (Prasad & Prasad, 2019). In order to mitigate the negative impact of phosphate accumulation while satisfying the needs from farmers we conducted several surveys (Human practices). From those we concluded that cost-efficiency of the product has the highest priority for farmers, but they would prefer a more environmentally-friendly product when being cost-efficient. Therefore the major challenge of Mossphate is to be cost-efficient so farmers could use it.

The ultimate goal is to create a new last-stage in wastewater treatment facilities (WWF). A bioreactor array with the genetically engineered P. patens would reduce the phosphate loss in waste water. A reduction in the phosphate content of the outgoing clean water would have a positive impact and probably lead to a reduction of eutrophication and its negative impacts in the environment. At the same time, the phosphate-rich P. patens could be dried and used as a fertilizer. Read more about it: link to project design.

Goal 14: conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

In that matter, our project successfully addresses objective number 14.1, which focuses on the prevention and reduction of marine pollution, more concretely from land-based activities, including nutrient pollution.

Phosphate is an essential element for life and one of the primary nutrients for plant growth (Burut-Archanai et al., 2011). However, its accumulation in wastewater has been related to eutrophication, resulting in anoxic bottom waters and the release of toxic compounds . In the end, all of these factors result in the mortality of fish and other aquatic animals, damaging this way entire ecosystems (Prasad & Prasad, 2019).

Goal 15: Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss.

Mossphate deals with objective 15.1, which consists of ensuring conservation, restoration and sustainable use of inland freshwater ecosystems and their services.

Studies conducted by Prasad & Prasad in 2019 conclude that phosphate accumulation in inland waters is one of the main causes of eutrophication and algal blooms in such water systems. In our project, we aim to mitigate the impact of the nutrient phosphate by using the genetically engineered P. patens, which could be later dried and used as a fertilizer.


UN (25.10.2020).

Burut-Archanai, S., Eaton-Rye, J. J., & Incharoensakdi, A. (2011). Na+-stimulated phosphate uptake system in Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 with Pst1 as a main transporter. BMC Microbiology, 11.

Cordell, D. (2010). The Story of Phosphorus Sustainability implications of global phosphorus scarcity for food security. Environmental Studies.

Prasad, R., & Prasad, S. (2019). Algal Blooms and Phosphate Eutrophication of Inland Water Ecosystems with Special Reference to India. International Journal of Plant and Environment, 5(01), 1–8.