Sanitation and energy infrastructure for cities in low and medium income countries, reducing public health risks.
Pitch us on your solution
In India, nearly 80% of the total sewage waste generated annually goes untreated into the environment. This causes 2 diarrheal deaths every 5 minutes and losses of over $100 billion to the economy. There is contamination of groundwater, degradation of water bodies as well as soil health which in turn affects quality of agricultural produce. With a rapidly burgeoning population in cities across India and other developing countries worldwide, the ability to safely manage sewage waste has become a crisis.
InSanirator builds sanitation and energy infrastructure for developing countries. InSanirator makes the world's most compact fecal sludge and septage waste treatment systems. They are designed for densely populated urban areas in these countries. Modular system design and speed to deployment enables rapid scaling and population coverage at affordable costs, while mitigating public health risks and recovering energy. InSanirator is helping build resilient, healthy and prosperous cities of the future.
What is the problem you are solving?
Safe and hygienic sanitation is the backbone of a healthy city. Lack of such infrastructure causes nearly 2 million child deaths worldwide, and 200,000 of these occur in India alone each year. In India and other developing countries such as China, in South-East Asia, Africa and Latin America people lack access to toilets. Even when they do have access to toilets, like in India where nearly 100% coverage has been achieved in the recent past, the fecal sludge, septage and sewage waste goes untreated into the environment due to lack of appropriate treatment infrastructure. India has only about 37% of the total required capacity to treat waste for 1.3 billion people. This leads to massive economic losses to the tune of over $100 billion each year in the shape of public healthcare expenditure burden, social costs, damage to the environment and impact on local tourism.
The current solution of building centralized wastewater treatment plants is highly capital intensive, requires years to build and commission and laying down of extensive network of sewage drain pipelines. No current decentralized systems can be deployed in densely populated cities. Subsequently, failing to match pace with demand fueled by rapid pace of urbanization.
Who are you serving?
InSanirator systems are designed for densely populated cities in developing countries. Around 400 million people live in cities in India and another 400-700 million urban residents will be added by 2050.
The people from marginalized sections, sanitation workers or slum residents, bear the brunt as they come in contact with untreated fecal waste. They are most vulnerable to outbreaks of waterborne and vector diseases, leading to loss of productivity hours, absenteeism from work, out-of-pocket health expenses, that in turn prevent breaking of poverty cycles. Additionally, the massive degradation of environment and water bodies affects every citizen, irrespective of religious, racial, gender, economic or social background.
A robust sanitation infrastructure is the backbone of healthier communities and prosperous communities. InSanirator is helping build cities where people can live in harmony. There is no conflict because of challenges faced in the absence of appropriate infrastructure, diminishing resources such as water or lack of access to electricity. Over the last two years we have continuously engaged with multiple stakeholders while building a holistic solution. In addition to citizens, these include waste collectors, the government at national, state and city level, civic society organizations in WASH space and urban design space.
What is your solution?
InSanirator's state of the art machines are the most compact fecal sludge and septage treatment system in the world. By dewatering, drying and combusting the sludge, our patent-pending technology harnesses substantial amount of energy in readily usable form. The energy generated each day is enough to self-power the system on a continuous basis but also produce enough electricity for daily energy consumption of 75 average Indian households. Additionally, 10,000 liters of clean water and minerals for agricultural use are produced each day. The entire infrastructure to safely treat and recover energy from waste fits into a 20 feet long shipping sized container, without compromising on the efficiency or the number of people served. Each such system is capable of serving 50,000 people per day.
Compact size and modular design allows us to deploy these systems at a neighborhood level in cities in a matter of days. InSanirator machines also capture public health data from the fecal waste at the community level. This provides actionable data about epidemics, antimicrobial resistance, drug abuse and overdose to public health agencies.
The system is designed to be simple to operate, thus, drastically reducing the cost burden of operation. These systems can be commissioned in a mere 2 days, thus providing local governments speed and flexibility of serving urban populations growing at breakneck pace.
Following a systems design approach, we integrated cutting edge technology, business model innovation and urban design while building the solution at MIT. InSanirator machines provide seamless integration to existing urban ecosystems as well as planning of new infrastructure. Whether the development occurs through retrofitting, redevelopment or new development, InSanirator systems and delivery model offer flexibility in implementation.
InSanirator systems are highly affordable compared to other existing solutions and technologies while offering extreme versatility and speed to scale for expanding coverage to larger populations.
We believe every human has a right to a dignified and quality life. As people migrate with aspirations of better quality of life to existing cities and as new ones take shape, it is imperative that we build infrastructure to ensure that people already living in those areas do not feel dispossessed of their local resources and that harmony between communities prevails. Sanitation and energy infrastructure is a very important part of ensuring a sustainable assimilation of populations and enabling them to prosper.
Which dimensions of the challenge does your solution most closely address?
Where is your solution team headquartered?Cambridge, MA, USA
Our solution's stage of development:
Select one of the below:
Describe what makes your solution innovative.
We strongly believe that cities exist only because of people who live there. Technology only enables an ecosystem for them to flourish. Combined with deep technology at its core, the InSanirator solution is humanistically co-designed. Thus, intricately tying together innovation in technology, business and delivery models. At every step of our research, engineering and execution we have kept community and people as the central guiding force to make decisions.
Our patent-pending technology developed at MIT D-Lab during the last two years is the engine that drives InSanirator systems. These systems are highly versatile plug and play machines that are adaptive to varied environments, geographies and demographies in different or even within the same cities. As a result, we have been able to device an innovative decentralized delivery model. We deploy our systems in highly distributed manner at a neighborhood level while taking into account urban design and seamless integration with the local environment. This means waste can be treated locally with lower logistic costs. Also, the electricity harnessed, clean water recovered and agricultural minerals can be readily used by the same community. Our systems capture public health data about epidemics, drug use, antimicrobial resistance at community level. Thus, enabling local agencies to take preventative health actions.
Further, this enables rapid expansion of sanitation infrastructure in cities that earlier could not afford to do that in a timely manner. Additionally, it provides for building a sustainable business model for InSanirator as a company with one time plus recurring revenues.
Describe the core technology that your solution utilizes.
InSanirator’s patent-pending technology miniaturizes and automates the process of drying, combustion, and heat recovery into a compact hardware unit suitable for consumer use in varied environments. The process controls behind each InSanirator system are state of the art and the data collection of process parameters enhance the efficiency of operations. InSanirator systems provide real-time for monitoring for quality of effluents.
- Dewatering - In the first step, the water content from septage is reduced.
- Drying - This is followed by drying and compression to further increase the percentage of solid fecal matter content.
- Combustion - The solid heavy matter is combusted. This not only removes all the pathogens but also releases heat energy that is later captured back.
- Pasteurization - The water obtained from dewatering stage is pasteurized and made suitable for agricultural or discharge purposes.
- Each InSanirator system uses proprietary heat exchange system to harness back the energy stored in fecal matter. As a result, substantial energy is captured back that can self-power the system without any external energy input. Plus, generating enough electricity that can meet energy consumption of at least 75 average Indian households.
- Additionally, each system produces minerals that can be used for agricultural purposes.
Why do you expect your solution to address the problem?
Healthier cities provide environments for both physical and emotional well-being of its residents. InSanirator delivers quantifiable and qualitative impact for the citizens, city governments, sanitation value chain workers as well as financiers and investors.
a.) InSanirator systems completely eliminate harmful pathogens, thus, mitigating outbreaks of diarrhea, cholera that otherwise result in nearly 200,000 child deaths in India each year.
b.) With InSanirator’s neighborhood level systems, we will significantly increase our capability to provide actionable data from fecal waste at granular levels to public health agencies about epidemics, drug use and overdose, antimicrobial resistance trends.
c.) InSanirator systems provide disposal sites for waste collectors. With safe and controlled treatment of waste pollution of water bodies, groundwater contamination will be prevented. [True cost of poor sanitation]
d.) As electricity is produced by each InSanirator system everyday from renewable source (poop), it will offset nearly 400,000 tons of CO2 emissions in 5 years. Every ton of CO2 emission offset results in $86 in socio-economic savings.
e.) We collaborate with honeysuckers to optimize coverage of waste collection from households. During research interviews we found out honeysuckers did not have work for at least 10 days in a month. The cost of transporting to illegally dispose waste miles outside the city center means lower margins. InSanirator's distributed network will mean shorter trips, legal means to dispose and better margins.
f.) Manufacturing - As we scale, we will move manufacturing to India. This will provide hundreds of jobs in the sector.
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?
- By the end of 2019, we expect to serve about 15,000 people with pilots operational in 5 cities.
- By the end of 2020, we will be serving about 350,000 people.
- In five years, we will be in a position to serve nearly 100 million people each day.
The target population our solution directly impacts includes urban residents. Beyond citizen residents, it also includes the septage waste collectors called honeysuckers who are individual private vacuum truck operators. We will work with them to provide for safer and more optimized operations for waste collection. This will result in business growth for these honeysuckers (or InSanirator Champions as we call them). They will be an important part of InSanirator sanitation value chain. At the same time, our delivery model includes working with people from lower socio-economic backgrounds who have been working in the sanitation cleaning space. Our model is designed to train them and make them local operators of simple to use InSanirator systems, thus, providing a sustained employment and dignified life.
Going forward, as we move the manufacturing of InSanirator hardware locally to India we anticipate supporting hundreds of jobs in manufacturing sector and across the supply chain.
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
India is undergoing a transformative phase in building safe sanitation value chain for the country’s 1.3 billion residents. By providing nearly 100% access to toilets, the country has nearly achieved open defecation status (ODF). Now the focus has shifted towards treating sewage waste and achieve ODF+ and ODF++ status. This is where we come in. Over the next 5 years we aim to build an expansive network of InSanirator treatment systems across cities in India. In doing so, we will be able to serve at least a 100 million urban residents each day.
To scale the solution, we are focused on executing a sustainable solution and expanding our capabilities in a holistic manner to achieve that. To accelerate the reach of ODF++ across the country, our ability to set up manufacturing and supply chain will be key. We will be building the network locally, to expedite supply, reduce transportation and logistics time and costs. Also, we aim to establish an innovative operations model to grow from city to city rapidly while maintaining high quality and efficiency standards. We are already exploring different operations strategies as we design pilots specific to cities by looking at different industries that have scaled and served tens of millions of consumers in a few years.
At the same time to reduce friction and make it easier for governments to expedite coverage we will work with financing organizations such as the World Bank and other foundations.
What are the barriers that currently exist for you to accomplish your goals for the next year and for the next five years?
InSanirator is a gov-tech startup, driven by a mission to improve the quality of life of people living in developing countries by reducing public health risks, supporting healthy urban environment and building resilient infrastructure. In order to achieve our ambitious goals, we foresee the following barriers in the short and medium term:
As hardware technology start-up in the gov-tech space initial capital requirements is a challenge that we are learning to navigate.
Partnerships with stakeholders globally at different levels to maximize the impact, even though we are focusing on cities in India.
Year 1 - 5:
Beyond the first year of successfully piloting and building crucial first partnerships with cities, we anticipate that in order to achieve scale at a rapid pace we will need solid on-ground operations team.
The inherent inertia in the government systems often slows down execution on the ground. This will require us to execute creatively.
How are you planning to overcome these barriers?
We believe that MIT Solve can help us navigate these barriers by providing a valuable support ecosystem. To overcome these barriers we plan to take the following actions in different phases while expanding our operations in urban India -
Year 0 - 1:
We have received tremendous support from various grants and fellowships at MIT. Going forward, we are looking to seek grants and also raise capital from investors.
We are engaging with varied stakeholders and non-governmental organizations through both MIT as well as our personal and professional networks.
To build on that network and relationships with stakeholders is a strong motivation for us to apply for Solve this year.
Additionally, prize money from Solve and other competitions will also infuse critical funds required at early stage of the company.
Year 1 - 5:
In order to expand coverage within cities and to other cities, we plan to follow to build a very strong operations. This would mean that we prepare cities before the launch so as to bringing together and optimizing the existing sanitation value chain and collaborating with different government agencies and citizens.
We aim to deliver successful pilots and create a model to scale with the support of the governments across other cities. We will then be able to leverage government’s strong motivation and push towards solving the problem in the country at a fast pace. This is in alignment to our company goals.
Select an option below:
How many people work on your solution team?
- Co-Founders - 3
- Other full-time - 1
- Full-time interns - 3
- Current team size - 7
For how many years have you been working on your solution?
Why are you and your team best-placed to deliver this solution?
InSanirator’s mission-driven founding team shares a common passion to build impactful and sustainable solutions for people around the world.
Andrew studied System Design and Management at MIT and Systems Engineering at Olin College. He spent eight years leading engineering teams at Fortune 500 technology companies to bring to market innovative and critical technologies. Andrew is passionate about using his broad background to design solutions to large-scale and complex challenges facing humanity. He is the CEO and leads system designing.
Aadish studied Electrical Engineering at Panjab University in India. Later, he trained in entrepreneurship and healthcare innovation at MIT and Harvard Medical School. He spent eight years building and scaling ventures in financial technology, education and B2B SaaS in India, Japan and the US. Aadish is passionate about integrating technology and business innovation to improve people’s lives. He leads business strategy and partnerships.
Islam studied Environmental and Chemical Engineering at Zewail City of Science and Technology in Cairo, Egypt. As a researcher at MIT, he developed new systems to generate hydrogen energy from water. He is an expert in wastewater treatment. Islam has also consulted for teams designing fecal sludge management projects in Egypt and Germany. He is the brain behind science of InSanirator systems.
Danielle is studying Mechanical Engineering at MIT with a focus on Sustainable Development. She has worked on numerous sustainability projects on-site in Uganda, Kenya, Botswana, and Indonesia. She also conducted research on automation and human-technology interaction at MIT. She leads engineering at InSanirator.
With what organizations are you currently partnering, if any? How are you working with them?
- Currently, we are part of MIT’s premier start-up accelerator MIT delta v 2019 cohort at Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship in Cambridge. Here we are working on building our business under the guidance of mentors at MIT and advice from industry experts.
- We are partnering wastewater treatment plants and sludge vacuum pumping companies in Massachusetts for testing.
- We are partnering with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Government of India and different cities in India to launch pilots by the end of 2019.
What is your business model?
We have designed our business model to ensure that our customers - urban local bodies (ULBs) in cities, can get back more value than the capital they spend. While, the citizens benefit the most. Over a 10 year period, city governments will be able to make back all of their expenditures through direct and indirect economic savings. More importantly, our solution ultimately benefits millions of urban residents belonging to varied socio-economic backgrounds.
At the same time a profitable business model is important for us to continuously deliver innovation as we strive towards an ambitious vision. Thus, necessitating that we capture back the value we deliver to our customers - the city governments, to build an economically sustainable venture.
Our revenue streams include:
Sales of InSanirator hardware to city governments;
Ongoing revenue from service level agreements for providing continuous servicing of hardware systems;
Recurring revenues from the sale of resources recovered - electricity, clean water, agricultural minerals and public health data.
What is your path to financial sustainability?
When we founded InSanirator, it was clear in our minds that we want to build a profitable venture driven by our core values to deliver sustainable and powerful impact by building technology for people. Becoming financially sustainable in the long term is critical to be able to continue to innovate as rigorously to achieve our vision. We are working on the following path:
a.) Grants and competitions - We were the winners at MIT IDEAS Global Challenge 2019, secured funding from MIT delta v, Legatum Center fellowship and other grants at MIT. Going forward, we will be seeking out grants from governmental and non-governmental organizations globally. As well as participating in international competitions to raise funds.
b.) Investors - We have already piqued the interest of impact investors. At the same time, to scale the solution rapidly we realize how important traditional venture capital is. As we understand their expectations, we are building a business that not only creates impact but is lucrative for investors to invest in. We need not only their capital support but also growth and network support system to push for rapid scaling to both manufacture and establish operations.
We have designed our business model to build in sustained revenue streams that grow over time. Besides the sale of hardware, the resources recovered each day will be sold to generate recurring revenues. In the long run, we would be able to harness the power of data which will become central to the business growth.
Why are you applying to Solve?
With patent-pending deep technology at the core, InSanirator is also working to innovate the business and delivery models to solve one of the most challenging problems that affect the lives of more than half of humanity on the earth. As we build InSanirator from ground up into a sustainable and profitable business to deliver high impact solution for billions of people worldwide, we are working with stakeholders and supporters at all levels to build a strong support system. Being borne out of MIT, provides a solid start. We want to broaden that support base and strongly believe MIT Solve is a vital catalyst to enable us to move forward. Solve will help us engage with a wider global community and help us make the vision of healthier and prosperous cities a reality.
Solve will provide us access to extensive network of organizations, advisors, mentors, experts who are as driven as we are to solving sanitation challenge and building healthier cities. That is the most valuable resource we will gain at Solve. This is even more important for us as we attack the hard problem of sanitation infrastructure in developing countries from not just hardware technology but also from delivery model, financing and impact aspects. Additionally, the prize money that accompanies will help us in the initial phase of implementing the solution in Indian cities.
As a team we firmly believe that we can gain only as much we give in. We will contribute to the progress of other Solve teams.
What types of connections and partnerships would be most catalytic for your solution?
With what organizations would you like to partner, and how would you like to partner with them?
There are four categories of organizations that we believe are critical for us to successfully deliver impact for people on the ground. Firstly, the government at different levels including city local bodies, state as well as the national levels. These are our customers and important part of the decision making process. We also want to build a partner relationship with them so as to maximize impact to accomplish shared goals.
Secondly, financing organizations such as the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, JICA, AIIB, Gates Foundation will be crucial to scale and working with the governments of developing economies to provide monetary support. Thirdly, experts and consultants in the Water and Sanitation Hygiene space (WASH) will be play an important role in helping us build a delivery model that involves local communities. Lastly, support of venture capital will be key in scaling the solution in India and internationally to other developing countries.
If you would like to apply for the Innovating Together for Healthy Cities Prize, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution.
When we started InSanirator we considered different markets such as refugee and disaster relief camps and wastewater treatment plants in the US. We narrowed down to cities in developing countries and in particular in India. With unprecedented human migration to cities it provides a rare opportunity to positively transform the quality of life of more than half of the world's population. We believe, this is where InSanirator technology can create maximum impact and has the most potential for successfully executing innovation on multiple fronts while building a profitable venture.
InSanirator’s vision is to build resilient, healthier and more prosperous cities of the future. The Innovating Together for Healthier Cities Prize aligns with the values of our mission-driven team. It will provide valuable support system to advance towards the audacious goal of transforming fecal sludge and septage management in developing countries for healthier cities. This will be critical as we aim to scale the impact to billions of people worldwide in not just mitigating public health risks and improving overall quality of life.
Additionally, the prize money will help us achieve the following milestones in the short term, but fundamental to our long-term success:
- Pilot phase - This will support us in designing pilots specific for the first set of cities in India that we are partnering with.
- Operations - The tranche of capital in early stages of the company will be useful in establishing an efficient on-ground operations in the first few cities, which can then be scaled across other cities.