Application of advanced biotechnology to produce affordable and biodegradable bioplastics from the invasive water hyacinth plant
Pitch us on your solution
Chemolex Company solves the existing ecological, economic, climatic and environmental challenges caused by the plastic pollution by applying its patented bio-conversion technology to produce 60% more affordable and biodegradable bio-plastics that can be used in food packaging, and manufacture of medical devices. Our vision is to lead the transformation to a plastic free world by producing superior and affordable biodegradable bio-plastics alternatives that can be used in sustainable food packaging and product wraps as well as manufacturing of medical devices without any environmental, ecological and climatic adverse impacts.
What is the problem you are solving?
Currently, it is estimated that an average of 51 trillion microplastics particles have accumulated in the water bodies. These microplastics are smaller than 5 millimeters and they are produced from the breakdown of the fossil based plastics that are used in food and product packaging as well as equipment such as medical devices. According to 2018 report by UNEP, 45% of microplastics are as a result of the breakdown of conventional plastics used in food packaging and product wraps while 8% of the microplastics are from various medical devices that are made from the fossil based plastics. These microplastics have detrimental ecological and health impacts because once they are ingested, they cause blockage of gut, changes in oxygen levels and physical injury which can impacts growth and reproduction of aquatic animals. Microplastics also contain harmful chemicals such as bisphenol that are carcinogenic and can also disrupt hormone when consumed. An average shellfish can ingest up-to 11000 particles of microplastics particles per year which is detrimental both to the aquatic life and consumers of the shell fish. The production of these conventional plastics also emits huge tons of carbon as 1 ton of the plastics emits 4 tons of carbon.
Who are you serving?
First, we produce affordable and biodegradable bioplastics that are used by both small-scale and large scale food companies and other product packaging companies. Having conducted personal interviews with these companies, we realized that they are not able to adopt the use of sustainable and environmental friendly packaging because the available options are 60% more expensive and slightly lower quality than the fossil based plastic packaging. Also, our market research on the manufacturing of medical devices reveals that the existing biodegradable plastic substitutes are very costly thereby increasing the cost of medical devices by more than 110%. We therefore tackle these challenges by producing biodegradable bioplastics alternatives from the invasive water hyacinth plant. Our bioplastics is 60% more affordable and has very high water and oxygen barrier thus enabling safe storage of food. Additionally, the sustainable and biodegradable bioplastics possess exceptional crystallinity, storage modulus, glass transition temperature and bioresorbable properties hence appropriate for use in the manufacture of low cost medical devices. We therefore supply to companies that manufacture these medical devices
What is your solution?
We apply our patented advanced bio-conversion technology to produce biodegradable bioplastics from the invasive water hyacinth plant. The use of the invasive hyacinth plant is beneficial because it helps in eradicating environmental and climatic challenges caused by the aggressive growth of water hyacinth in L. Victoria. Unlike other bioplastics that uses edible raw materials such as corn, sugarcane and peas, we use an invasive water hyacinth plant that does not create food security concerns and does not require inorganic fertilizer and huge chunk of land to be grown. Our bio-conversion technology involves two pre-treatment process where the invasive water hyacinth is removed from the lake, chopped in smaller pieces and then subjected to steam pre-hydrolysis process. The pre-hydrolysis process breakdowns the lignin structure which enhances the enzymatic conversion in the bio-reactor. After this procedure, the water hyacinth hydrolysate is subjected into bio-conversion process in the presence of two strains of bio-engineered enzymes. These enzymes converts the substrate( hydrolysed water hyacinth) into succinate and organic lactic acid that we use in making biodegradable food packaging and products wraps. Also, the organic lactic acid and succinate are used to make biodegradable bioplastics that are supplied to other companies as a better alternative to conventional plastics in the manufacturer of various low cost medical devices.
Select only the most relevant.
Where is your solution team headquartered?Kisumu, Kenya
Our solution's stage of development:Prototype
Select one of the below:New application of an existing technology
Describe what makes your solution innovative.
This solution is very innovative and unique because it enables us to produce superior qualities of biodegradable bioplastics at very lower costs which is essential in increasing the use of biodegradable bioplastics by the target market. Currently, the existing methods produces bioplastics that are more than 120% more expensive than conventional plastics which therefore prevents the target market from using the biodegradable packaging materials. Our solution therefore solves the challenge by reducing the cost of production by 80% hence making the biodegradable bioplastics affordable to the target market.
The most important aspect of the advanced bio-conversion technology is the reduced resident time of 10 hours, zero use of in-organic chemicals in the process and the use of the invasive water hyacinth plant which makes the process very affordable and therefore very effective in producing biodegradable bioplastics that can be used in food and product packaging as well manufacturer of medical devices such as cartheter, syringes parts and many others.
Describe the core technology that your solution utilizes.
Our technology is the advanced bio-conversion technology that involves two strains of bio-engineered enzymes. The process begins with the pre-treatment of the water hyacinth plant where the water hyacinth is chopped into smaller pieces, washed then subjected to steam pre-hyrolysis that breaks down the lignin structure to increase the surface area for enzymatic action. After this process, the lignin is recovered from the pre-hydrolysed feedstock and recycled for use in producing steam that is used in pre-hydrolysis. The pre-hydrolysed feedstock is then subjected to enzymatic bio-conversion in the presence of 2 strains of bioengineered enzymes which converts the feedstock hydrolysate( water hyacinth) into lactic acid and succinic acid which forms the main material for the production of biodegradable bioplastics.
Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:
Why do you expect your solution to address the problem?
Based on our pilot testing, we have been able to produce biodegradable bioplastics food packaging and product wraps with high oxygen and water barriers and they are also 60% less costly to the target market. This therefore means that these biodegradable food packaging can be afforded by both small and mid-sized companies, e-retailers and other product packaging companies. Based on our market analysis, we established that most of the companies and retailers are able to use the existing environmental friendly packaging due to the high cost involved hence we are certain that reducing the costs and improving the functionalities of the packaging solutions will increase the adoption rate of biodegradable and environmentally friendly packaging. The biodegradable bioplastics also have exceptional crystallinity, storage modulus and glass transition temperatures hence can be used in manufacturing medical devices such as syringes, cartheters, fibrous and porous scafold, orthopedic devices and drug delivery systems. The use of the biodegradable bioplastics will therefore reduce the cost of the materials and eliminate plastic pollution menace caused by the use of traditional plastics in the making these medical devices
Select the key characteristics of the population your solution serves.
In which countries do you currently operate?
In which countries will you be operating within the next year?
How many people are you currently serving with your solution? How many will you be serving in one year? How about in five years?
Currently, we produce 200 kg of biodegradable bioplastics food packaging and food wraps that we supply to 10 food companies, 20 grocery vendors in Kenya. We also supply biodegradable bioplastics to 2 companies that manufacture medical devices in Kenya.
The use of the invasive water hyacinth plant as our main raw material have also controlled the aggressive growth of these plant in L. Victoria. This is because the invasive water hyacinth plants do deplete oxygen from the lake thereby killing fish and other aquatic animals. The plant also forms an impenetrable mat on top of the lake thereby preventing transport, fishing and tourism that occurs within the lake.
In the next 1 year, we will produce 7 tons of biodegradable food packaging and product wrap solutions that will be used by 300 food and beverage companies as well as more than 20000 grocery vendors in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
We will also supply the biodegradable bioplastics to10 companies to manufacture medical devices which will be essential in promoting the use environmental friendly medical devices within the medical sector.
In the next 5 years, we project to produce an average of 20 tons of biodegradable food and product packaging solutions which will help more than 100000 food and grocery vendors, 1000 food companies and 30000 e-retailers in getting affordable and green packaging solutions. We will also procure necessary facilities that will enable us to produce the biodegradable medical devices in the next 3 years.
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
In the next one year, we aim to produce an average of 7 tons of biodegradable bioplastics per month which means that we will control the aggressive invasion of lake victoria by the water hyacinth plant and at the same time increase the use of biodegradable bioplastics by food and packaging companies in East Africa. Our aim is to supply the biodegradable packaging solutions to 3000 companies and 20000 grocery business in Kenya which will increase the use of biodegradable bioplastics by 5% in Kenya. In next 5 years, our objective is to supply biodegradable bioplastics to 160000 grocery vendors, packaging companies and e-retailers. This will translate to an increase in the use of biodegradable bioplastics by more than 20% which is equal to reduction in the release of plastic wastes by 35 million tons annually. We are also aiming to setup medical device production facility which will manufacture low cost biodegradable medical devices that are better alternative to the existing medical devices made from traditional plastics. The production of these biodegradable medical devices will therefore reduce the cost of these medical devices and also reduce the amount of plastic pollution caused by the use of tradition fossil based plastics in manufacturing medical devices.
What are the barriers that currently exist for you to accomplish your goals for the next year and for the next five years?
Based on our analysis of the market, we have identified marketing barrier to be a major challenge due to small size of the company and the limited resources which will make it challenging to market the products to the huge target market. To successfully penetrate the market, the company will have to carry out aggressive marketing within the target market.
The second barrier to entry is the financial resources because we require an estimated $100000 to accomplish our goals in the next 5 years. Failure to secure the financial resources will therefore prevent the company from achieving the core objectives.
How are you planning to overcome these barriers?
The Company intend to partner with market agencies and consultants that will help us in developing market visibility for our biodegradable packaging solutions. We will foster strategic partnerships with these companies in order to ensure that we achieve the required market penetration at a minimal costs.
We are also in the advanced stage of securing external investments that will enable the company achieve its objectives. Currently, we are in the process of securing an investment of $30000 from keeling curve organization and we project to secure additional $70000 by the end of May 2020.
Select an option below:Hybrid of for-profit and nonprofit
If you selected Other, please explain here.
We are Chemolex Company which is a first growing start-up company that provides sustainable and environmental friendly solutions within the East Africa community. Currently, we apply the advanced bio-conversion technology to produce biodegradable bioplastics packaging solutions from the invasive water hyacinth plants.
How many people work on your solution team?
Our Company consist of 4 full time employees and 3 part time staff. We also do constract other professionals on a need based basis
For how many years have you been working on your solution?
Why are you and your team best-placed to deliver this solution?
The following are the diverse sets of skills that will make our team succeed
CLIFFORD OKOTH – CO-FOUNDER
Clifford is a professional industrial chemist with master’s degree in polymer and organic chemistry. He also holds a professional training certification in renewable energy production and green chemistry. Clifford is a passionate young social entrepreneur with 6 years of experience in managing chemolex Company. Clifford brings great technical knowledge of bio-plastics manufacturing and quality testing having been a production officer in a plastic manufacturing company.
10 years of experience as a program officer in NGOs sector. He is an experienced program manager and holds a master’s degree in rural development and a degree in project management. He is in-charge of fostering strategic partnerships, liaising with authorities within the target households and ensuring that the implementation of our projects meets the required standards and achieves the required impacts. He also helps in impacts assessment of the project, risk assessment and therefore an instrumental member of the project strategic team.
In addition to the above team leaders, we have experienced financial managers, production officers and researchers who will assist in the production of the biodegradable bioplastics.
We have worked together as a team for the last 6 years hence we are confident that we have the skills and expertise to deliver on the solution.
With what organizations are you currently partnering, if any? How are you working with them?
We are currently partnering with Chandaria Business Innovation and Incubation Center that offer business consultancies, exposure to investors and mentoring. Through the partnership, we have been mentored and trained on how to manage the business and recruit the staff.
We have also partnered with Bridges for Enterprise Organization that is based in London and offers business consultancy and other strategic management services. They have helped in analyzing our financial plans and 5 year strategic plan for the company.
Our team also partners with Kenya National Bureau of Standards and University of Nairobi that helps us in quality control and other product research and development services.
What is your business model?
Our Company provides 60% more affordable and sustainable packaging solutions for food and product packaging companies. The biodegradable bioplastics produced by the company enables the food and beverage as well as other product packaging companies to package their food and products with minimal costs without the need to worry about the environmental impacts of their packaging solutions. Currently, we produce the biodegradable bioplastics and supply to these companies for use in their packaging activities. We are also able to produce tailored biodegradable packaging solutions based on the customers` specific requirements.
Lastly, the company produces high quality and affordable biodegradable bioplastics that are suitable for use in the manufacture of low cost medical devices that are critical in the health sector.
What is your path to financial sustainability?
Initially, we received a total of $30000 as grants for developing the products and piloting. The Company is currently able to generate an average of $3000 per month from the sale of its biodegradable bioplastics which is enough for various company`s operations.
According to our 3 year strategic plan, we aim to raise a capital of $100000 in the next one year which will be enough to expand our operations. The amount will be raised from a combination of grant funding, selling products and grants. We therefore project that once we have raised the amount, we will be able to achieve business expansion through the revenues that will be generated.
Why are you applying to Solve?
Our Company is start-up company that is still running prototype for the innovation. Solve will therefore be a valuable opportunity for the company to acquire both financial resources and capacity building that will be necessary in commercializing the innovation. The $10000 that will be provided through the Solve platform and the opportunity to meet other potential investors will significantly help in enabling the company to commercialize the innovation and reach its objective of producing 7 tons of biodegradable bioplastics food and product packaging solutions in the next one year. The Solve platform will also be helpful in developing skills in areas such as project management, monitoring and evaluation and revenue model development which are essential for the development of the company.
What types of connections and partnerships would be most catalytic for your solution?
If you would like to apply for the GM Prize on Circular Economy, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution.
Chemolex Company will utilize the GM prize money to procure an machine that would help us in removing the water hyacinth from L. Victoria which will enable us to remove up to 5 tons of water hyacinth on a weekly basis that can be used in the large scale production biodegradable packaging materials. Additionally, the prize money will be used in procuring laboratory facilities that can be used in quality control and testing as well implementations of various quality standards.
- Mr Clifford Owino Co-founder , Chemolex Company Limited