Imagine this: A shawl or scarf made from chicken feathers, softer than Pashmina shawls. Surprised?
Radesh Agrahari, co-founder and designer of startup “Mudita and Radesh” claims to have developed a natural wool-like fibre from the chicken butchery waste — feathers — to make an array of goods like shawls, scarves, stoles and quilts under the brand name of Golden Feathers.
And he says the brand is a big hit and sells at a premium to buyers in India and overseas. With nearly 65% of the country’s population eating poultry meat with an annual consumption of 4.3 lakh tonnes of meat worth Rs 25,000 crore sold in India, there is no dearth of raw material.
For every kilo of chicken, there is chicken waste of 350 g, with feathers accounting for the bulk of the waste that is dumped in landfills or finds its way into water bodies creating bio hazards, says Agrahari. They are now setting up handloom units, training women to spin and weave and create a livelihood in tribal villages with the first project in Jhalawar.
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Agrahari’s firm is not the only startup working on sustainability projects. There are many others who are working on projects that are inclusive and making a difference in the lives of the poorest and the marginalised. These include cleaning up the environment in cities, providing livelihood to tribals, working on ultra-low-cost health care solutions, or improving farm incomes.
Take for instance IT professionals Sonali Sonawane and her husband, Tukaram. When the couple went back to their village during the lockdown, they were shocked to find that farmers were still dependent on bulls to till the land. They decided to work on mechanisation of small-size farms and built the ‘electric bail (bull in Marathi)’, an electric-powered axle-less tiller that replaces the bull and does much more — precision sowing, seeding, earthing up multiple lanes at a time and carries out spraying.
This agri-tech startup Krishigati is helping farmers to go in for inter-cultural cropping or cropping between two crop lines that improve farm productivity. “This will double farm productivity and income, climate resilient agriculture mechanization and women empowerment as some of the sustainable development (SDG) goals that they help achieve with this lower cost, zero-emission, multi-utility machine,” says Krishigati co-founder, Sonali Sonawane.
Then, there is ReCircle, a Mumbai-based waste recycling company working with Nestle, Mondelez, Hindustan Unilever to build a circular economy. That is, they collect metal, glass, paper and plastics from consumers and taking them to recyclers. The recycled products are sold back to the manufacturing companies in return for carbon credits to offset their carbon footprint.
Rahul Nainani, co-founder and CEO, said in the past six months the company has picked up 49,000 tonnes of waste from 2,500 collection centres at 200 locations and recycled it.
The chicken waste upcycling startup, electric bull maker and reverse plastic supply chain startup were the winners at the National Conference of Social Innovators organised by the Pune International Centre along with the National Innovation Foundation and Tata Institute of Social Sciences.
Dr K V Somasundaram, director, School of Pubic Health and Social Medicine, Pravara Institue of Medical Science, said that India’s is falling behind in achieving SDGs and its ranking has already slipped from 117 to 121 in 2022. And this was mainly due to neglect of the rural and tribal communities which still face hunger, poverty, health and livelihood challenges.
Around 11 SDG goals would not be achieved if these issues were not addressed and the social innovation enterprises could bridge this gap. Many of these solutions were universal that could be deployed across the country, he suggested.
R A Mashelkar, president, PIC, said these startups could bring about social transformation through their disruptive innovation. A case in point was Salcit Technologies which bagged the Anjani Mashelkar Inclusive Innovation Award for “Swaasa”, a smartphone-based, ultra low cost solution for detecting major respiratory disorders.
The Salcit solution detected and diagnosed lung disorders through audiometric analysis of just simple cough sounds using a smartphone. Narayana Rao Sripada, founder and CTO of Salcit Technologies and former ISRO scientist said Swaasa used AI-driven technology to diagnose respiratory disorders at an operating cost of just one rupee and provides results instantly. It replaced expensive spirometry tests that have to be done in a laboratory by trained personnel and costs around Rs 1,000 per assessment.