There is increasing demand for crop residues (such as coconut shells) to produce activated carbon, a specialized chemical used for water and air filtration (around $3 billion/year, growing at 12% per year). However, the majority of rural smallholder farmers currently are excluded from access this market, because their crop residues are dispersed to be economically collected and centralized where it can be chemically converted. Therefore, instead of gaining profitable use from their crop residues, most farmers simply burn these in the field, which in turn creates significant air pollution near urban areas such as Delhi.
In the meanwhile, the activated carbon sector, deprived of biomass-based feedstock, turns to coal or fossil-based feedstock which not only is more expensive, but also creates significantly more emission associated with this sector.
By developing portable technology that enables smallholder farmers to locally upgrade their crop residues into a densified form that reduces the transportation cost, Takachar changes the economics of biomass conversion in rural areas, allowing farmers to sell their crop residues and participate in this global market, which is consistent within the scope of this Challenge for creating inclusive trade. Furthermore, our production technology, when deployed in rural areas, also allows the creation of jobs and income opportunities in these communities without requiring the local youths to migrate to urban areas to benefit. This integrates the rural labor into the global activated carbon supply chain.