Photo courtesy of Maximum Performance.

Bill Gates is into scat. His foundation is hard at work on a new space-age toilet, and to test the prototypes, it just bought 50 gallons of soybean-based fake feces from a soybean-based fake feces company. That’s some of it up above, sitting a lot closer to a dude’s hand than I’d want it to sit to mine.

As we reported last year, the Gates Foundation is funding research on new, sanitation-improving toilets. The goal is to help reduce child mortality caused by the lack of access to safe facilities in developing countries — currently, there are 2.5 billion cases of diarrhea from tainted food and water every year, and 1.5 billion deaths. So the foundation has devoted more than $3 million to funding engineers at work on Toilet 2.0.

Grist relies on the support of generous readers like you. Donate today to keep our climate news free.

The toilets that are coming out of this challenge are pretty innovative. One turns waste into fertilizer. Another uses microwaves to turn waste into electricity. One’s solar-powered. One guy wants to use charcoal to extract the carbon from poop and … I don’t know, make it into diamonds? But all the commodes need to be tested, and nobody really wants to test them with actual waste. (Aside from the obvious ick factor, it’s not even standardized!)

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

That’s where the ersatz turds come in. The foundation is holding a Reinvent the Toilet Fair to demonstrate new designs, and to prepare, they’ve put in a 50-gallon order with a company called Maximum Performance, which has been making pseudopoo out of soybeans and rice since 2003. Man, I’ve been making the real stuff out of basically the same ingredients since 1980, and nobody’s paying me.

If the Gates Foundation succeeds in creating a new safe toilet, they could provide power to struggling communities while simultaneously sharply reducing childhood mortality. And we’d owe it all to soy shit substitute.