IIT Kanpur Startup’s Eco-Pleasant Thermocol Can Double Up As Fertiliser


One facet by which most Indian households excel is the artwork of stockpiling objects for future use. Our storerooms typically home peculiar objects like outdated cardboard bins and plentiful thermocol sheets.

Whether or not it’s for events, college initiatives, or packaging wants, thermocol incessantly assumes the function of a necessary visitor. Its robustness, widespread availability, and light-weight nature make it appropriate for numerous functions, contributing to its recognition.

Nonetheless, amidst its seemingly versatile purposes, we are inclined to overlook its environmental influence. Whereas a lot consideration is given to the detrimental results of plastic on the planet, there’s a less-discussed wrongdoer — polystyrene. As thermocol consists of polystyrene, it turns into non-biodegradable and, when uncovered to daylight, produces dangerous air pollution.

The thermocol utilised in households and the expansive packaging trade typically finally ends up filling landfills, ultimately discovering its option to the ocean. Analysis signifies that burning thermocol, a follow prevalent in lots of households, releases not solely Carbon Monoxide but in addition Styrene and a wide range of different poisonous chemical compounds, resulting in a myriad of eye and lung infections.

Regardless of quite a few research highlighting the antagonistic results of thermocol, its widespread utilization continues to escalate. This raises a pivotal query: is there a relatively efficient different for the packaging trade?

A 29-year-old engineer Chaitanya Dubey from Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, might maintain the answer to this problem. This younger entrepreneur has efficiently created a biodegradable different to conventional thermocol utilizing mushroom mycelium and agricultural waste.

“As soon as its meant goal is fulfilled, simply crush it and combine it into your crops — it can function a pure fertiliser for them,” he explains to The Higher India.

Chaitanya’s journey started virtually 4 years in the past when he had simply graduated from school and was exploring new concepts to pursue. Let’s check out how this biodegradable answer got here to be.

Bringing a sustainable different 

Born and raised in Kanpur, Chaitanya grew up in a business-oriented household. “Whereas my father was a businessman, I by no means actually thought I might be one. Like most households, my dad and mom wished me to pursue engineering and safe a job,” he displays.

Founder of Kinoko Biotech.
Founding father of Kinoko Biotech. Image credit score: Chaitanya Dubey

The predetermined path appeared affordable, and Chaitanya pursued his engineering diploma in Bengaluru. “After finishing engineering, the subsequent step is usually to work or pursue an MBA. That was my plan too. I began working at an organization in Bengaluru whereas considering the concept of getting an MBA,” he shares.

Nonetheless, his plans took an surprising flip when he enrolled in a small enterprise course in Solan. “It was a quick course that, in some ways, altered my trajectory and led me to the place I’m right now. The course opened up numerous profession prospects for me, and I may envision myself as an entrepreneur. It was throughout this course that I used to be launched to mushroom farming and its potential for producing important earnings,” he explains.

Mushroom farming marked the preliminary step that ultimately led Chaitanya to his revolutionary breakthrough. “I initiated a small enterprise the place I cultivated each medicinal and industrial mushrooms. Whereas it was progressing effectively, I aspired to do extra,” he recollects.

This need prompted Chaitanya to delve into researching the varied makes use of of various components of mushrooms. Throughout this exploration, he found the rising idea of making leather-based from mushrooms. 

“Though it was primarily a circulating idea on the time, it steered me in the direction of questioning what else may very well be crafted utilizing mushrooms,” he displays.

To additional his analysis, he additionally reached out to IIT-Kanpur. “It was a gradual transition and we nonetheless develop and promote mushrooms. It was after months of analysis and improvement that I used to be capable of make it,” he says. 

The planet-friendly thermocol can be used as a fertiliser too.
The planet-friendly thermocol can be utilized as a fertiliser too. Image credit score: Chaitanya Dubey

In 2019, he integrated his firm underneath the identify Kinoko Biotech — an agri-tech firm that makes biomaterials out of mushrooms. 

Sturdy, light-weight and planet-friendly

The thermocol is light-weight, sturdy and has the identical really feel because the polystyrene. “When it comes to power, it compares favourably to high-density thermocol; nevertheless, weight-wise, it leans a bit on the heavier aspect,” he informs. 

Discussing the weather used to create the eco-friendly different, he explains, “Mycelium, or the roots of the mushroom, serves as a pure adhesive. Moreover, we utilise a mix of agricultural waste and pure fibres, contributing to the sturdiness and longevity of the thermocol. The inherent properties of mushrooms make for a strong materials.”

He continues, “Since these are technically made out of roots of the mushroom, they grow to be a byproduct of mushroom and a subcategory. Fabricated from pure supplies, the thermocol begins to decompose in about 60 to 90 days. In addition to throwing it away, one can really use it as a nourisher and pure fertiliser for crops.” 

The thermocol takes about 5 to seven days to be made. “On the subject of thermocol, there exists a variety of sorts. Our product falls on the marginally increased value spectrum in comparison with low-density thermocol however stays extra reasonably priced than high-density thermocol,” he says. 

“To place it into perspective, our pricing falls within the mid-range, round Rs 20 to Rs 25 for 100g of packaging. Compared, low-density thermocol sometimes ranges from Rs 15 to Rs 20, whereas high-density thermocol can fluctuate broadly, reaching anyplace from Rs 30 to Rs 100 or extra,” he says. 

The product is presently accessible for packaging companies, however Chaitanya has formidable plans to broaden manufacturing and make it accessible for most people as effectively.

“We’re additionally within the means of growing a fabric utilizing mushrooms to create idols. Many alternate options to POP (Plaster of Paris) are dangerous to the atmosphere. At present, our plant capability permits for the manufacturing of 200 items of thermocol a day, however as a part of our future plans, we purpose to extend this to 1,000 items per day,” he explains.

Being a newcomer out there, Chaitanya is navigating the intricacies of provide chain administration and persuading companies to make this eco-friendly swap.

“Whereas most individuals have some consciousness of the environmental influence of polystyrene thermocol, there aren’t many substitutes accessible out there. With my inexperienced innovation, I hope to offer them with an alternate and a chance to contribute positively to the atmosphere,” he expresses.

(Edited by Padmashree Pande)


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