Turning waste into wealth by salvaging crop residue

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September 7, 2020
MoU signed with Netherlands varsity to create business model for biomass products

Burning of paddy straw, or crop residue, has become a serious problem in the State.

“An average of 1.5 crore tonnes of paddy straw is being generated in Andhra Pradesh every year, of which a large part is set on fire by farmers. Burning of paddy straw releases greenhouse gases, air pollutants, particulate matter like elemental carbon and smoke that strongly impacts human health,” said Aneel Kumar Ambavaram of Grameena Vikas Kendram Society for Rural Development (a hybrid organisation, representing Indo-Dutch sustainability forum - INDUS Forum in Andhra Pradesh).

The Government of Andhra Pradesh, Government of the Netherlands, and Grameena Vikas Kendram Society for Rural Development have signed an MoU with the aim to initiate and strengthen collaboration among the parties to enable the establishment of agricultural biomass-based industries to generate income for farmers and agriculture labour in rural Andhra Pradesh, support industrial development, and reduce environmental pollution caused by agricultural biomass burning. The name of the programme is ‘Waste to Worth’.

According to Mr. Aneel, burning of crop residue leads to loss of nutrients and affects soil fertility. At the same time, India is facing fiber deficiency and has to import fibers while there is a growing global demand for bio-based products such as packaging, flooring, furniture, energy, and much more.

Biomass from agricultural systems is the future for many product applications in the paper, furniture, and energy industry. The demand for it is expected to catch up in Europe.

‘Waste to Worth’ strives to create a circular business model for paddy straw and other biomass-based upcycled products in India and prevent release of greenhouse gases emission caused by biomass burning. Both governments opt for futuristic circular solutions, wherein agriculture waste is transformed into new products that create a positive social and ecological impact in Andhra Pradesh, he said.

Through the Waste to Worth programme, initiated by the INDUS Forum, pulping and manufacturing units will be established that use paddy straw and other agricultural biomass, such as coconut, banana and pulses as the raw material and upcycle these into innovative, circular, and sustainable panels, furniture, building materials, packaging and more.

The INDUS Forum is actively supported by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The ambition is to establish 10 processing hubs in different locations of Andhra Pradesh by 2030. The first processing hub to be established will benefit and increase income of 4,000 farming families, and benefit over two lakh families by 2030, Mr. Aneel said.

Waste to Worth, along with the support of the Government of Andhra Pradesh, is also going to set up an Experience Centre to scale up collaborative research with respected research institutes such as Central Pulp & Paper Research Institute (CPPRI) in India and Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

“The A.P. Government is providing initial grant funding. This fund will be used for farmers’ mobilisation, training, establishment of an Experience Centre to support research on other biomass sources, innovation, testing and in addition, create livelihood for poorest of the poor families in rural Andhra Pradesh,” Mr. Aneel said.

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