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Award has put Takachar’s work on world stage: Delhi-based innovator whose firm won ‘Eco Oscars’

Takachar has developed technology that converts agricultural waste biomass into usable fuel. It won the Earthshot Prize, an award set up by Prince William and the Royal Foundation.

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New Delhi: The Earthshot Prize has highlighted the work of Takachar on the international stage, said the company’s co-founder and CEO Vidyut Mohan.

Takachar is a Delhi-based company which has developed technology that converts agricultural waste biomass into usable fuel and fertiliser.

The inaugural edition of the Earthshot Prize named Takachar as the winner under the ‘Clean Our Air’ category. Dubbed as the ‘Eco Oscars’, the Earthshot Prize is an award set up by Prince William and the Royal Foundation to honour initiatives that showcase “human ingenuity” in mitigating the environmental impact of climate change.

The other winners include Coral Vita for ‘Revive our Oceans’, AEM Electrolyser for ‘Fix our Climate’, the Milan city government for ‘Build a Waste Free World’, and Costa Rica for ‘Protect and Restore Nature’.

The winners were selected by a jury panel that included former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, Sir David Attenborough, and Prince William.

What Takachar does

In its bid to address problems surrounding climate change, Takachar brings to the table a small-scale and low-cost piece of farming equipment that uses “oxygen-lean torrefaction” to process waste biomass, such as rice residuals and coconut shells, into usable fuel and fertiliser.

“[Our equipment] has its origins in the French-style roasting of coffee beans. It roasts the biomass in controlled air [in the absence of oxygen]. It takes out low energy molecules leaving behind carbon-rich material that can be used as fuel or fertilisers,” Mohan told ThePrint, describing the torrefaction process.

The benefits of Takachar’s equipment are three-fold for farmers as well as the environment, Mohan said.

“With our help, a farmer can now sell this carbon-rich material on the open market and make a small business out of it. It incentivises farmers to not burn agricultural waste and allows them to earn as an entrepreneur. It eliminates 98% of the smoke compared to what is generated by open burning and mitigates carbon emissions,” he added.

Currently based in New Delhi, Mohan has been running Takachar with co-founder and CTO Kevin Kung, who is based in the United States and had built the technology behind the equipment as part of his PhD.

Takachar’s technology and equipment underwent a successful pilot programme in Kenya, in which the fuel generated by torrefaction of rice residuals was sold to over 5,000 farmers, Mohan said.

“We will now be embarking on a commercial pilot programme using a commercial prototype in two parts of India. The first is at Rohtak with the World Food Programme using rice straws, while the second is near Coimbatore using coconut shells [as biomass waste],” Mohan said.

How Takachar won the award

The award was the result of a nine-month-long vetting process, in which one had to be nominated by an institution before submitting an application to Earthshot, Mohan said.

“Kevin and I are both fellows at Echoing Green, a social entrepreneurship institution. After we were nominated, Earthshot reached out asking to submit an application,” he said, adding that the entire process included submitting a video pitch about Takachar and a two-hour-long interview before Takachar was selected among the top 50 finalists.

In order to keep the event environmentally friendly, Earthshot was held remotely, with the main ceremony taking place in London and a production crew set up at each nominee’s location. “If you won, you had to be live on screen. We gathered in Delhi with the production crew,” Mohan said.

 

“We didn’t know ahead of time that we had won. It was completely unexpected, has resulted in a tsunami of interest from so many people and has put our work on the international stage,” he added.


Also read: Stopping climate change is not just about eliminating carbon emissions. It’s much more


 

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