Now that the Cisco International Downside Solver Problem 2022 winners have been formally introduced, you’ll wish to study extra about every profitable group and the story behind every innovation. The Cisco International Downside Solver Problem is an internet competitors that awards money prizes to early-stage tech entrepreneurs fixing the world’s hardest issues. Since 2017, the competitors has awarded $3.25 million USD to 78 start-ups from 25 international locations.
We’re excited so that you can study extra concerning the 2022 profitable groups addressing a few of the largest challenges we face by means of technology-based options.
On this weblog we’ll study Agri To Energy (A2P Vitality), winner of the $100,000 USD Local weather Affect and Regeneration Prize. Their resolution addresses the issue of crop waste burning in India, which causes unhealthy air air pollution, damaging carbon emissions, and a monetary burden for already struggling farmers. A2P’s expertise platform makes use of AI and satellite tv for pc imagery to establish areas the place crop waste burning is prevalent, and creates a market the place crop waste might be was clear biofuels as an alternative.
Co-founder and CEO Sukhmeet Singh earned a bachelor’s diploma in mechanical engineering and an MBA earlier than becoming a member of the Indian Faculty of Enterprise, the place he led an entrepreneurship program and consulted with governments and business on coverage points. In 2018 he co-founded A2P Vitality alongside along with his co-founder Dr. Robert Berry to create a marketplace for biofuels derived from crop waste. I sat down with him to study extra about his journey and the affect A2P is making in India.
What impressed you to develop this resolution?
Sukhmeet: I grew up within the Chandigarh space in northern India. After I was a baby, there wasn’t as a lot visitors and industrialization as right now, so it was a lot cleaner. After I got here again after a number of years of learning and dealing outdoors my metropolis, I had two younger children, and I noticed that each winter there was quite a lot of smoke and air air pollution. The air high quality index (AQI) is normally round 50 or 60 in cleaner cities, however right here in India it goes as much as 400 or 500. The docs would say to not let the youngsters play outdoors when it’s on the peak. An enormous purpose for that is that 35 million tons of crop waste is produced yearly in simply two states in North India, and most of it will get burned on the sector and produces black smoke. Roughly 500 million tons of crop waste is generated yearly in all of India, and a few studies say 30 to 40 p.c will get burned. On the similar time, 60 to 70 p.c of the electrical energy generated at thermal energy vegetation in India nonetheless comes from coal burning, and quite a lot of that could be a low-grade coal.
I used to be engaged on a crop diversification coverage mission with the Authorities of Punjab the place I interacted with farmers, and I spotted that this was not a farmer-specific downside, it’s a cross-sector downside. There, I used to be launched to Dr. Robert Berry, who was Dean of Engineering at Aston College (UK) and main a European Bioenergy Analysis Institute mission exploring using applied sciences to rework paddy straw into gas and agricultural merchandise. In 2018, we noticed that there was a superb enterprise alternative as a result of on one hand, we’ve got quite a lot of agricultural biomass and then again we want cleaner fuels in thermal energy vegetation. So we determined to begin a company, Agri To Energy, to make use of crop waste for energy era.
I’m significantly grateful to Aston College and the Oglesby Charitable Belief for his or her assist of the analysis, feasibility institution, and early commercialization of this work.
Are you able to clarify how your resolution works?
Sukhmeet: When it comes to gathering the crop waste, we work with farmer entrepreneurs. These are usually youthful of us in a village who wish to do one thing additional aside from farming. They put money into assortment equipment and conduct outreach with particular person farmers to gather the waste from them. This advantages farmers as a result of they aren’t spending time or cash on gas to set their crop waste on hearth. Simply these financial savings alone can enhance their income by seven p.c.
From the manufacturing facet, we arrange vegetation the place we will produce biofuel, which is mainly inexperienced sustainable gas made out of stubble, which is mainly the crop waste. We promote the inexperienced gas to companies that wish to shift from utilizing coal to biomass fuels. Expertise additionally performs an essential function. The time between harvesting one crop and sowing the subsequent crop is roughly 30 to 40 days, and if the gathering just isn’t executed inside that point, the crop waste will get burned. So we had the thought to make use of expertise for extra environment friendly assortment of crop waste. We began utilizing satellite tv for pc photographs of areas with a excessive depth of fires, which signifies there’s a considerable amount of crop being burned. This enabled us to concentrate on areas that can have the most important provide of crop waste.
What’s progressive about the best way you’re fixing the difficulty? What units your resolution aside?
Sukhmeet: A key differentiation for us could be using expertise. We are able to inform by means of satellite tv for pc imagery the place crop waste is getting burned and the way a lot, so we all know if it’s a superb place to do an intervention. I don’t suppose any firm is doing that.
Our expertise platform has additionally grow to be a market for biofuels. Once we have been organising manufacturing vegetation, we realized that we will’t meet the necessity throughout India. There’s a a lot larger demand for biofuels now as a result of the India authorities has set carbon neutrality targets for all companies. We have been working in [the state of] Punjab however getting many queries from companies in different states that wish to shift from coal to biomass fuels. That’s after we realized our expertise platform may additionally allow small biofuel producers, small-scale farmers, and patrons to attach with out our involvement.
Some larger biofuel manufacturing vegetation might wish to purchase stubble from as a lot as 10,000 acres. However some households personal solely a small quantity, possibly 6 to 7 acres. That’s the place the platform comes into image: it helps to consolidate small provides of crop waste or biofuels into larger portions for patrons.
The expertise platform has one different profit: it permits companies which are shopping for the biofuels to see their affect. By way of the dashboard they’ll see how a lot revenue farmers are producing and the way a lot carbon emissions are being prevented, and all that may movement instantly into their ESG reporting.
How will profitable a prize within the Cisco International Downside Solver Problem show you how to advance your enterprise?
Sukhmeet: We’re in a spot proper now the place we wish to scale up from a product and expertise perspective, and likewise from a go-to-market perspective. With out this funding, we’d discover it very troublesome to scale. Now we will rent people who find themselves extra environmental centered, or who’ve a expertise background and might work with corporates to finally assist them of their journey to shift from fossil fuels to those inexperienced fuels. As I mentioned, India has already set internet zero targets, so we really feel there’s an awesome alternative proper now for this sort of product, and this prize cash will assist us seize that market by scaling our complete platform.
What recommendation do you might have for different social entrepreneurs?
Sukhmeet: It’s very onerous if you end up in a sector the place it’s a must to change habits, so acknowledge that it will be a protracted journey. However stick with your core, and don’t lose sight of why you began the group. Construct merchandise, each bodily merchandise or expertise, check out beta merchandise, and attempt to get to market as quickly as potential. Getting buyer suggestions is absolutely, actually vital, too. The journey of being an entrepreneur is thrilling, however it’s a protracted journey. You simply have to stay to it.
Keep tuned for extra articles in our weblog collection, that includes interviews with each Cisco International Downside Solver Problem 2022 profitable group!