Express News Service
On Sunday, New Delhi was once again dressed in gloom as the overall Air Quality Index (AQI) docked at 304, making it plunge to the ‘very poor’ category. Every year, the Capital experiences air emergency around this time.
In fact, many studies conducted to determine such an increase in the pollution levels in northern India conclude that the traditional practises of stubble burning contribute significantly to this AQI decline. Delhi-based Vidyut Mohan (30) along with Kevin Kung from the United States, have taken it upon themselves to “help reduce air pollution and prevent carbon emissions”.
Creating a machine, which helps drastically scale the utilisation of agricultural waste biomass, the entrepreneurs’ small-scale and low-cost equipment processes agricultural as well as forest waste into reusable products like fuels and fertilisers.
‘Takachar’ – taka (translated in English as money) and char (meaning carbon) – was a conceptual venture crafted so as to generate wealth and livelihood from carbon-based products. Their company was named winner in the ‘Clean Our Air’ category, bagging EU 1.2 million, at Prince William’s inaugural Earthshot Prize on October 17.
Dubbed as the ‘Eco Oscars’, the award is given to people who are trying to save the planet.
A sustainable journey
The idea behind Takachar first originated as part of Mohan’s master’s thesis. He was thoroughly influenced by the potential impact working on agricultural waste would create in the world. His aim was multidimensional – not just from an environmental perspective but to also empower and create rural livelihood to the farming population of the world.
It was in 2013, during one of his pilots with a village in Uttarakhand, that he felt the impact of this invention.
“Not only did the incomes of the [farming] families double for the month because of the machine, we were also able to prevent forest fires arising from burning agricultural waste,” says the 30-year-old entrepreneur. Kung’s PhD thesis from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was similar to Mohan’s concept, and thus, the idea of becoming partners in this journey formed.
“Both of us were focusing our application of this technology on India and we managed to connect while studying. We had a lot of alignment in what we wanted to do so we stayed in touch. In 2018, we finally founded Takachar,” says Mohan.
The company has been supported by various incubation programmes from India and around the world. Their grant-based fundings were generated by Social Alpha, the government’s NIDHI-PRAYAS programme, ARISE programme by Indian Agricultural Research Institute, and more.
Reaching new heights
When asked his reaction to winning the award, Mohan replied, “I’m feeling that these awards are achieving its purpose of spreading positivity and optimism around the climate crisis.”
However, he was still letting the feeling of receiving one sink in. Takachar is currently working with farmers in Rohtak, Haryana in collaboration with the CII Foundation (CIIF), which has a farmer base in Punjab and Haryana that manages and collects rice-straw.
Along with this, they are also working with coconut farmers and coconut oil mills in South India, and a local organisation in Kenya. The Kenyan farmers are using one of their earlier prototypes to generate products that are being sold and used by over 5,000 farmers in East Africa.
“Winning the Eco Oscars has been instrumental. This support will help us create robust solutions and reach more farmers,” concludes Mohan, while adding how they have started working on other environmental solutions linked with their current project.