Two IIM-Bengaluru graduates who would have earned millions working for a multi-national bank or an investment company put their heart and soul in finding solutions for a social environment cause. When they started out in 2010, Mainak Chakraborty and Sreekrishna Sankar moonlighted for a few months on many ideas but finally picked up the challenge of tackling solid wet waste dumped on the streets of Bengaluru.
According to them, the existing systems for disposing wet waste and generating biogas were defunct and non-efficient. So they decided to develop a holistic and clean technological solution that could be installed in urban and rural environments. It took them three years from 2010 to develop the Biourja system, a pre-fabricated end-to-end solution suite that can be monitored remotely. “If the technology is right, waste can be tackled by the private sector and the government need not do it alone,” says 32-year-old Chakraborty.
With 23 projects in eight states in the country, their company GPS Renewables has also set up two projects in Bangladesh. Aiming for global acceptance, they are focusing on the western markets with projects coming up in Los Angeles in the US, Japan and Malaysia. Another 20 are in the pipeline in India.
The Biourja system is a high-rate dry anaerobic digestion system that digests biowaste and produces biogas. This system is two times faster and twice as efficient than any other BioCNG system. The high speed digestion mechanism helps generate more biogas per day, resulting in more savings for clients. This pre-fabricated system is compact, utilises minimal space and can co-exist in any urban location. Unlike traditional systems, Biourja suite is a complete solution consisting of an input system with shredders, a gas storage system, sludge de-watering system and gas piping to the kitchen along with burners, making the transition for the customer hassle-free.
“Our latest order is a one tonne unit at ITC Maurya in Delhi. We have progressed to a bottling unit, the first of its kind in the private sector in Hyderabad. Here, gas can be stored easily and safely even in a balloon and can be used for cooking,” says Chakraborty. They have also bagged contracts from Infosys and the Chennai Municipal Corporation and Amma’s Canteen in Mannangudi.
According to Chakraborty, their plant is fully automated except the manual feeding mechanism, and requires just one person to run it. “From every installed plant, we regularly get health information on its daily functioning. Any problem is immediately addressed. All issues are communicated through SMS and WhatsApp,” he says.
Their focus is on wet waste generated from hotels, educational institutions, service organisations, etc., and are selling systems of capacity between 500 kg and one tonne per day. A one tonne-capacity plant costs Rs 35 lakh and the investment is recovered within two years. It can produce 7 kg of liquefied petroleum gas from 100 kg of biowaste.
They set up their pilot project in 2011 at Oxford College of Engineering at Bommanahalli in Bengaluru. “The Department of Biotechnology gave us a grant of Rs 50 lakh. We received a seed funding of Rs 25 lakh in 2011. In 2013, we went commercial with a project that could process 750 kg of food waste. We generated Rs 3 crore through sales. And in 2015-16, we hope to cross Rs 10 crore,” says Chakraborty.
GPS Renewables wants to take “our solutions to rural areas as renewable energy can power the needs of an entire village. When processed, three acres of elephant grass can light up a village of 100 households and fulfill their cooking needs,” says Chakraborty.