Can India be a world leader in marine algal farming?
My personal story on what inspired me to start a biotechnology venture in India to cultivate Marine Micro Algae for a Healthy Sustainable Planet!Prakash Ramadass
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After spending my entire professional life in the US for past 16 years, my decision to return to India was received by shock and awe within my family and close circle of friends. To them, what was more shocking was when I told them that I am going to start a venture focusing on Marine Biotechnology in India.
Being a trained electrical engineer, I was fortunate to work on the design of cutting edge wireless technologies throughout my professional life (WLAN-2005, WIMAX-2007, LTE-2008, IOT-2009, SMART ENERGY-2011, SMART CITY-2013, SMART INFRASTRUCTURE-2015, IOE-2016). Subsequently, I got to help global companies go from inception to launch products in various emerging markets. It is natural that the first question in their minds was “why marine technology?” I told them that I have an opportunity to make India a world leader in Marine Algal Farming. That made them look at me like I was from outer space!
Let me try to retrace my inspiration and the journey that led to my decision to make this pivot in my professional life. Back in 2015, I attended Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Speech in San Francisco on “Make in India” and “Digital India” Campaign. I took a lot of inspiration from that speech- but one thing that struck a chord with me was when I heard how people from different professional backgrounds are trying to solve pressing issues faced by the country today. One example that still resonates with me is how an Indian software engineer in US decided to work on a portable phototherapy medical device for jaundice that can be used at home. Today, this technology is being used to save the life of jaundiced new born at a cheaper cost. [Source Link]
I am a big foodie and love trying new things. I never say no to any new food, before trying it atleast once. Looking back, perhaps, that is the attitude I have in my professional life as well. I have always had a quest to explore, and never shied away from new things or ideas, even if I knew that there was a possibility of failure. This is perhaps why I have had 6 different jobs in different fields in the last 15 years. Every 2 years, I went through this emotional drain of professional dissatisfaction, lack of challenges . The downside of my wanderlust is that every time I switch my job, I needed to start from ground up and prove the value I bring to the table, to my new boss and my peers. Despite this heavy burden to prove my credibility, it never stopped me from learning new things and challenging myself every day. All these new experiences often taught me that I should never sell myself short and I should do what really makes me happy.
How It All Started…
Exactly a year ago, my childhood friend approached me with an idea of Marine Algal farming in India. It would use a proprietary technology to produce marine algae biomass that is SUSTAINABLE, GREEN , ORGANIC with the promise of increased yield at a low production cost. As an industry outsider to Marine Algal technology, I started to explore it with caution, and did my own due diligence to figure out the key learnings in the Algae industry in the past decade. Following that, I met with some industry experts, algae biomass producers, value added product producers, and consumers to understand the gaps and challenges. The high level conclusions of my own analysis are:
1. India is already one of the major producers of algae biomass for past 15+ years. (Spirulina)
2. Indian domestic market is currently underserved and has widely been ignored by key players for various reasons.
3. Un-sustainable technology. 99% of exports are based on ground water species which is not sustainable in the long run, when India is already on the path to become a water-scarce country by 2025.
4. Lack of awareness. Need to increase consumer acceptance through education on the benefits of algae
5. Marketing failure to promote value added algal products by government and private industry players.
6. Lack of hands-on training for students, researchers & academicians in large scale production units, to encourage new innovations in the field of algal technology.
My business plan for Seagrass Tech will address these basic gaps and offer Algae products that is HIGHLY differentiated by process and quality , compared to the products offered today in the market.
So Why Micro Algae?.
Let’s start with Newton’s third law of motion.” For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”. Similarly for every naturally occurring challenges, be it climate change, energy security, or food scarcity, there are solutions available to solve them naturally. In that sense, Algal biomass is considered to be the most credible natural source to solve many of these wide spread challenges such as malnutrition, carbon emissions and depletion of fossil fuel. It is emerging to be one of the most promising long term, sustainable sources to solve many of the world’s pressing issues.
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In a nutshell, Algae has the power to simultaneously fuel our vehicles, recycle CO2, provide nutrition for animals and people, and create jobs for millions.
Our new venture, Seagrass Tech, has identified the potential of establishing an industry that concentrates on annihilating the barriers of access to nutrition within the country’s food supply and to create awareness of the humongous nutritional benefits of the algal products in India. Since the availability of algal biomass is limited, the current value added Algal products are priced at extremely high. Our focus is to enhance the productivity and increase the availability of the most essential algal biomass in order to construct a feasible environment. [Source link]
“Nearly 70% of India’s irrigation and 80% of domestic water use comes from groundwater, which is rapidly depleting”
Promoting “Green Planet Initiative” with sustainable practices…
Seagrass Tech has developed a harvesting technology that uses non-potable water, such as seawater, and non-arable Tsunami affected land to grow marine micro algae. Our platform captures carbon dioxide in open raceway ponds,which provide us with renewable solutions that can improve people’s lives and make the planet more green and sustainable. Moreover, Seagrass is the FIRST company in SE Asia to produce all three value added Marine Micro Algae species such as Organic Dunaliella salina (DS) , Organic Chlorella salina and Organic Spirulina plantensis using seawater in a non-cultivable Tsunami affected land, dedicated for sustainable Algal farming.
Every day is an opportunity to learn something new. We are preparing for tough brutal days ahead with sheer FOCUS and INTENSITY, to achieve our goals.
Please share the post and help us promote our sustainable “Made in India” marine technology that is environmentally friendly to make our planet more greener. Thank you!
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My favorite quote to share with my fellow budding entrepreneurs:-
“If you do the things you need to do when you need to do them, then someday you can do the things you want do when you want to do them.” - John C. Maxwell