IIT Delhi startup devises technology to convert agro waste into pulp

Air Pollution in Delhi (mostly during winters) is attributed to crop residue burning in nearby states of Punjab-Haryana etc. In the recent years, Delhi has been choking with extremely hazardous levels of air pollution causing grave health concerns. The farmers are also devoid of any cost-effective alternatives and therefore burn the rice straw in their fields. Kriya Labs, a startup incubated at TBIU-IIT Delhi, has developed a process to convert such agro-waste into pulp. This pulp can be used to make bioethanol, paper, tablewares and also helps the farmers generate profits from their waste instead of burning it off. Unlike existing pulp making process, which requires heavy machinery and economy of scale, the process used by this startup can be economically integrated and sustainably run even in smaller scales (1-10 TPD). It is a cyclic process producing useful byproducts. Additionally, the solvent system developed by Kriya Labs for the process is also completely biodegradable, non-volatile, made of natural products and completely safe to use.
Technology from IITD helps reduce pollution caused by burning of crop residues

"We have a process of converting any agricultural waste into pulp. This pulp can be converted into other value added products like paper, tablewares"

Mr Ankur Kumar, CEO and Founder of the startup talks to Dr Vanita Srivastava on the challenges and

When did you decide on this startup? Why did you choose this specific subject?

 

I was inclined towards environment and sustainability since my school days. Paper recycling was something that interested me. During my 1st year B.Tech here at IIT-Delhi, I had an idea to build an automatic portable paper recycling machine. In due course of time, the project evolved into making valuable products from agricultural waste. Delhi was grappling with polluted air largely because of agricultural waste burning in nearby states. I saw this as an opportunity and the potential of immense socio-environmental impact of our technology. I believed that our technology may solve this catastrophic problem and also convinced Kanika and Pracheer for the same. We therefore decided not to go for the placements and even cancelled all our plans of civil services preparation. Formally we incorporated this company on September 26, 2017. I am a current Design Innovation Fellow at IIT-Delhi and we are working together with the experts here to bring this solution to the market.

 

What were the main challenges and how did you address them?

 

The most difficult task was to form a team of like-minded people who are willing to quit the set path and travel the ‘road-not-taken’. There is a considerable amount of risk in any new technology, and so is the case in ours. I believe that a fully dedicated team with complementary skills helps mitigate the risk to a large extent. With Kanika and Pracheer, now we form a good set of such complementary skills. We are actively looking to work with people with similar vision and passion. Besides that, I think that finding the right problem is also very critical. It took us a significant amount of time to actually figure out precisely what problem we are solving and to what extent. I think it comes by talking to various stakeholders and being open to pivot for a better product-market fit.

 

What is your long term plan for your startup?

 

We believe that this technology has the potential to bring about the much needed shift to a bio-based economy and enable people at the bottom of the pyramid to actually Make-in-India. Right now, we are concentrating on the agro-waste of Punjab and Haryana and will have plans to expand in other states as well. A whole lot of products can be manufactured and marketed from cellulose and other by-products, and we aim to do it to an extent such that people perceive their agro-waste as an agro-asset.

 

Please give a small brief about your product and the technology.

 

We have a process of converting any agricultural waste into pulp. This pulp can be converted into other value added products like paper, tablewares etc. We aim to facilitate rural entrepreneurs, NGOs and government in setting up of the process integrated machinery and provide the required technical and operational training. We will also provide the required chemicals with an option of buying back the pulp.

 

How do you compete with others in the market?

 

The existing pulp and paper making technologies require very large scale and heavy recovery systems to be economical and non-polluting. Our technology gives us an edge to make pulp and paper economically and in an eco-friendly manner at lower scales. It therefore facilitates a cluster model of decentralised production. Our pulp is at par with the quality available in the market. In comparison to the existing usage of rice straw, especially in Punjab and Haryana, our process provides enough revenues to act as an incentive to not burn the straw. We are in constant touch with the farmers to co-develop this model.

 

The Team

Ankur Kumar | KanikaPrajapat | Pracheer Dutta
Scientific Advisor : Dr. Neetu Singh (CBME, IIT Delhi)