Gemma's taking on the world, one dog poo at a time

Gemma's taking on the world, one dog poo at a time

It's up there with wiping up vomit, cleaning out the back shed or dealing with a huntsman in the bathroom - picking up dog poo is top of the list of jobs you'd just rather not do.

And yet, with one in two Canberra households owning a dog, it's a task many of us are spending a fair chunk of time on.

'There is a bit of impostor syndrome,' Thomson says of speaking at this year's TEDx Canberra event.

'There is a bit of impostor syndrome,' Thomson says of speaking at this year's TEDx Canberra event.Credit:Karleen Minney

But hold that single-use plastic bag you've got in your hand; Gemma Thomson has a solution.

It involves dealing with dog waste the way Mother Nature intended, by flooding our backyards and public areas with poo-loving dung beetles.


In case you need to brush up on your horticulture, a dung beetle has one job: to take poo from above the earth's surface, roll it into tiny balls and distribute it into the soil below.

Thomson will detail her idea on stage at The Playhouse on September 8, during this year's TEDx Canberra event - the local version of the global TED (Technology Entertainment Design) talk phenomenon.

It's a homecoming of sorts for Thomson, whose "lightbulb moment" around canine waste management occurred at the 2016 TEDx Canberra event during a talk by dung beetle breeder John Feehan.

"There are almost more dogs than kids in Canberra," Thomson says.

"And their waste fills about two Olympic-sized swimming pools every year. It's a huge amount of waste that we're wrapping in plastic and sending to landfill.

"It's crazy we're taking organic matter and chucking it in a bin."

Thomson with her dogs Nim and Augie.

Thomson with her dogs Nim and Augie.Credit:Karleen Minney

Thomson's vision is to eradicate the use of single-use plastic bags in the disposal of doggy doo.

Her 12-month-old business, Puppis Baw, is already distributing thousands of dung beetles to the homes of dog owners across Australia - a one-off 'All You Need Poo Patrol' pack is $499 - with beetles sourced from none other than her inspiration, John Feehan.

While it's not the most commercially-savvy idea - "people buy the beetles once and never need to buy them again because they breed in the lawn" - environmentally, it's a cracker.

In fact, Thomson believes in her idea so much she's sold her house to invest in the business.

"We need to do some work on how it would work in public spaces - that's really our next challenge," she says.

TEDx Canberra licensee Ingrid Tomanovits says this year's speaker lineup is packed with Canberrans "who've taken matters into their own hands".

"I think [the 2018 lineup] says something about how a lot of us are tired of waiting for someone to solve our problems for us," Tomanovits says.

"A lot of our talks this year are great examples of people who saw a problem, and asked themselves, 'What can I do about this?'

"I find that so inspiring. It says to me that there are so many people out there who aren't willing to just sit around passively and hope for some magical solution to fall from the sky."

The TEDx Canberra lineup includes reformed alcoholic, Shanna Whan, founder of social media platform ‘Sober in the Country’ and Megan Gilmour, founder of MissingSchool, an organisation using technology to connect sick kids with their classrooms, teachers and peers.

TEDx Canberra's 'Divergence', Saturday September 8, The Playhouse. Tickets and further information from

Bree Element is the life and entertainment editor at The Canberra Times

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