As we strive to rid the world of plastic packaging material, a deep-tech material start-up has come up with a product that could help corporates shift to alternative material that is completely sustainable.

Alternative material

Delhi-based Dharaksha Ecosolutions offers biodegradable packaging that could be a replacement for thermocol and plastic made from the humble paddy straw. Yes, paddy straw — the same material that is hotly debated every year before the onset of winter since it is the source of severe air pollution as farmers in north India resort to stubble burning to clear their land to prepare for the next crop.

The young founders, Arpit Dhupar and Anand Bodh, started their journey in 2019 with the aim of addressing both air and plastic pollution. The research led to a proprietary biotechnology process through which packaging material can be produced that can biodegrade in 60 days in normal soil conditions. Their work was incubated at the Regional Centre for Biotechnology.

The process

So, what exactly is this technology? Dhupar, the CEO explains the process. Crop stubble waste is first cut into finer pieces. This is hydrated by adding water creating a nutritious paste. The material is steamed in bags in order to be sterilised, so that most biological activity causing microorganisms that are present die. Along with this process, spores of the mushroom culture are created, and these can withstand heavy temperatures, hence they survive.

The bags are then sent inside a clean room where the spores also function like seeds. They germinate and mycelium of the strain starts growing on it. The mycelium starts eating the material as its food and starts spreading its fibre-like structure over the bag and once the growth is complete in the bag, the material is transferred to moulds where the mycelium grows further and takes the shape of the required mould. Once the growth is complete, the mould is taken out and sent to the oven where the culture is completely neutralised, leaving behind a bio-fabricated material that can be used as an alternative to thermocol.

“It took two years to solve the technical challenges,” says Dhupar. A time well spent as the product has a host of illustrious investors and the companies showing interest include V-guard, Dabur, Pernod Ricard and Nestle.