Delhi pollution is making noise all around the globe. There is a mass exodus of people to other countries. People are paying dollars not only for a better education but even for cleaner air. Indeed, the capital has turned into a ‘Gas chamber’.The apex court and the government have finally realised the severity of the situation. Phrases like ‘green crackers’, ‘ban on diesel vehicles’, ‘stubble burning’ fill our daily dose of news. Farmers in Punjab and Haryana have been at the receiving end of unceasing criticism for contributing towards thick smog in Delhi.Stubble or basically the leftover part of the rice plant, in this case, rice straw is cut during grain harvest. Since rice straw doesn’t have any nutritional or commercial value, it is burnt. Over the years, a diversion in the wind cycle from neighbouring states to Delhi has worsened the air quality. Farmers though, take no blame for stubble burning saying it is the most convenient option for them.The government has provided them with machines and alternative technology likeHappy Seeder, however, farmers claim that machines cost in lakh and therefore, aren’t a feasible solution.The major loophole here is that rice straw doesn’t have any market. There are no takers for rice straw, unlike wheat straw which has both commercial and eco-friendly usage.Five IIT Delhi graduates have developed a technology whereby rice straw can be converted into pulp and further into biodegradable table wares and other products.
Kriya Labs Private Limited is a startup founded by Ankur, Kanika, Pracheer, Pratap, and Mriganka which specialises in making different types of pulp from any kind of agro-based residue. The startup which was formally incorporated in September 2017 envisions the production of 100% eco-friendly products.What started with an idea to just develop a machine that could automatically recycle paper and make products out of it soon transformed into a solution for stubble burning.This is how the decentralized model works-
The startup will act as a catalyst whereby they will collect rice straw from farmers at Rs 5000/per acreand sell it to small entrepreneurs who will make pulp out of it. These students will either buy the pulp back and make biodegradable ware out of it or will sell it to entrepreneurs who are already involved in this business.Farmers are being slammed with Rs 2,500 fine/ per acre penalty if they burn stubble. Using Happy Seeders technology which sows wheat seeds for farmers and covers it with rice straw is causing widespread soil imbalance. Right now, they aren’t being paid a penny.“We decided to make a market for rice straw, a technology to overcome all problems. We are currently making tableware which can be sold for Rs 40-45 per kg pulp. We researched and found out that no current tableware in the market is biodegradable. Hence, we have an eco-friendly solution to this problem in place.” said Kanika.
Mriganka informs Indiatimes that the cost of collection of rice straw is around Rs 1,500-2,000 per acre. “And we are offering double that amount. The products that are made out of this pulp are fetching this much price in the premium sector of the market which is why we can quote this amount. We are adding value to the rice straw.” Recycled paper is basically made of cellulose precisely what is being burnt in tonnes in Punjab and Haryana. The research work on this project which had begun in 2014 involved feedback from 250 farmers in Sangrur and Samrala districts of Punjab. The farmers said that rice straw collection wasn’t really an issue since they are already doing it for wheat straw.Ankur who looks after the entrepreneurial network said, “If you are an entrepreneur then we will set a small pulp manufacturing unit for you. You can either buy rice straw from small farmers and make pulp out of it. There are many entrepreneurs who have hotel businesses, poultry farms or own land of around 50 acres; we have spoken to them and they are more than willing to set up pulp manufacturing units.”Basically, Kriya Labs will enable market forces by creating a demand for rice straw in a manner where farmers could sell it to local entrepreneurs at a price they are happy about. “We are not using regulatory forces. We aren’t imposing any price,” says Mriganka. The startup which is in its initial pilot stage will rope in entrepreneurs once they sign an agreement to pay farmers the said price.A commercial unit will be set up in Ludhiana by July 2019 for operations. Initially, the plant plans to make 2-5 tonnes of pulp per day. Basically, the plan is to convert approximately 200 acres during one stubble burning season. The students have developed a cup-making prototype also that will use rice straw pulp. One kg of pulp can produce 200 ‘Khao-Feco’ or disposable plates. Only green chemicals are used during the conversion and the material will decompose naturally within two to three months.The ecstatic team informed that farmers were more than willing to sell stubble for the quoted price and with the help of Punjab government and a robust stakeholder network, Kriya Labs is looking at a bright future to end the capital’s pollution woes.