The Clean Tech News
NamZ: An Answer to the Global Food Crisis

“If deep-frying was the only option, toilet paper would be deep-fried.”
After two decades of working for some of the most renowned names in the agriculture and food industry, Christoph Langwallner set off to redesign everyday comfort foods.

In a recent interview with CleanTech News, Mr. Langwallner shares his motivations, challenges and milestones in his pursuit of NamZ.

NamZ is a food science company based in Singapore that uses proprietary technologies to create healthier food options to everyday foods. Its consumer brand, WhatIF Foods, has just recently launched and was met with considerable demand.

After two decades of working for some of the most renowned names in the agriculture and food industry, Christoph Langwallner co-founded NamZ in 2014.

What was the motivation behind the founding of NamZ?
“For two decades, I built businesses in Europe and Asia that focused on tasty, but unhealthy foods through the use of seasonings and artificial flavours. Through my time in the industry, I gained a lot of weight, and I felt disgusted with that.

On one hand, I was driving sales through tasty, calorie-dense but nutrient-deficient foods. But when I got home, I would advise my family on healthier food options.

Eventually, that mismatch became too apparent and I had enough. I started NamZ and initiated the Nutritional Paradox. I hope to get the benefits of NamZ technologies through the consumer brand WhatIF Foods.”

What is Nutritional Paradox?
The Nutritional Paradox describes the multiple ways in which food systems are broken.

For example, while humans could potentially eat more than 300,000 different types of plants, only a dozen of these plants and a handful of animals are used to produce 75% of all food.

Almost 60% of calories are obtained only from three crops namely rice, wheat, and maize, which are usually refined before consumption. Heavy processing renders the food calorie-rich but nutrient-deficient.

The over-dependence on these crops also take a toll on the planet’s ecological systems and a compromised a great deal of biodiversity. The Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures estimated that 33% of the world’s arable land is already lost.

To compensate, an area of the Amazon forest the size of a football pitch is being converted into agricultural land every minute. Evidently, this is unsustainable practise and “we need to find new ways to maximise existing agricultural land without tapping into new forests.”

NamZ launched its consumer brand, WhatIF Foods during COVID-19
Just like most parts of the world, Singapore has been on partial lockdown since March and telecommuting became the new default. But that did not stop NamZ from launching WhatIF Foods which was met with considerable demand.

“When we launched WhatIF Foods, we received great feedback and encouragement from first customers. People were talking to us in a language we never dreamt of. We are grateful and will continue to work hard to keep up with the demand.

Mr. Langwallner said.
COVID-19 presented NamZ with logistical difficulties due to global supply chain disruptions. A great deal of WhatIF Foods incorporates common materials which we call Future-Fit crops. They are less commonly produced that commodity crops and are not available to the mass market.”

Future-Fit crops like moringa and lupin refer to undertilised crops that are nutritionally dense, climate-resilient, and economically viable. They are considered to be the bridge to a sustainable global food system by the United Nations and other experts.

“But we are blessed with the best partners. We started to think about how we were going to develop the packaging without an existing supplier. It was through hours and hours of Zoom calls that we developed a carton that required no lamination between aluminum so that consumers can recycle the material properly.”

Indeed, distance makes the heart grow fonder
Mr. Langwallner told CleanTech News that “As telecommuting became the new default, it seems that we have come together more intensely than before. You’re no longer just communicating with the team that you’d typically see in the office, but everybody who is involved regardless of physical proximity.

It helps with communication, execution and empathy. People became much more empathetic to what others are going through.

NamZ’s Answer to the Global Food Crisis – CleanTech News
The NamZ Team
For example, the lockdown meant that our R&D team no longer had access to their labs, so we encouraged them to transform their kitchens to conduct application work and create recipes from our products.

Hundreds of recipes and applications were developed. For example, we found that we could use our soup and shake products to replace flour in cookies. The aroma was amazing too, we consumed them all.

I am extremely proud of how the team made the best out of the situation. We are still optimising remote work, but it has been a journey.”

Fanny Perdu, the marketing and public relations executive of NamZ, told CleanTech News that “I think we’ve gotten a much better idea of what the end-consumer experiences. I also realised that the mission of trying to change the food system is not that distant from end-consumers.

I was personally very humbled to see how ready the market is to embrace and embody the mission.”

The magic was done by asking “What IF”
NamZ’s Answer to the Global Food Crisis – CleanTech News
Mr. Christoph Langwallner
Mr. Langwallner said “It all started with knowing that there must be a better way than deep-frying instant noodles. That just makes people fat, period.”

Conventionally, instant noodles are made using a deep-frying process due to its industrial efficiency. Deep-frying also increases the porosity of noodles, cooking them faster.

“But deep-frying is very efficient. It takes only three minutes to dehydrate the product. If you air-dry a product, it takes up to 35 minutes and it translates to the need for bigger factories or lower production efficiency.

We then asked – what if we could replace deep-frying without compromising production efficiency?

“If deep-frying was the only option, toilet paper would be deep-fried.”
“We recognised that we didn’t want to develop a new technology for the sake of scientific development. It needed to be commercially viable. For years we have struggled to come up with something as efficient as deep-frying – until I was inspired by the manufacturing process of toilet paper.

Toilet paper is a dehydrated product but it’s cheap. Years later, we finally have a commercially viable process that can replace deep-frying with the same production capacity.

By eliminating the deep-frying process, 20% more Future-Fit ingredients can be included that would otherwise be taken up by palm oil. Micro-nutrients also survive the proprietary process, which are otherwise degraded during deep-frying.”

Cleantech innovators take on COVID-19

The global COVID-19 pandemic has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives around the world. As the pandemic unfolds, there is no doubt that more lives will be lost and there will continue to be wider socio-economic impacts for some time to come.
Government-instigated COVID-responses, such as lockdowns and social distancing measures, have turned a multitude of daily, routine tasks into fraught and, at times, complex interactions, presenting challenges for those businesses that rely on face-to-face interactions, or for those that now require additional protection, such as those in healthcare sectors.

Yet, there are some silver livings; some start-ups and incubators have used these measures and the unique conditions precipitated by COVID-19 as a springboard to develop innovative, commercially viable, localized solutions, allowing them the opportunity to tap into new opportunities and markets.

As countries start to envisage their post-pandemic landscape, with calls for green stimulus and technology, science and innovation-driven solutions growing louder, it is these enterprises that, by addressing immediate real world issues such as the pandemic and the escalating climate change crisis, can be a central catalyst in this recovery.

SMEs as a lynchpin for COVID-19 recovery
According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), small economic units with up to 49 employees account for 70 per cent of global employment, yet small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups are often not given the opportunity to transform their innovations into viable enterprises that attract investments, so as to bring them to scale and have the environmentally and socially transformative impact that the world desperately needs.

This is where the Global Cleantech Innovation Programme (GCIP), implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) comes in.

“The GCIP supports entrepreneurs developing disruptive early-stage cleantech innovations that address the climate change and energy challenges and helps transform them into fast-growing enterprises,” explains Alois Mhlanga, Chief of UNIDO’s Climate Technology and Innovations Division.

“Locally nuanced solutions led by innovative start-ups and SMEs can help to create resilient, locally based economies. Particularly in developing countries, they can act to help to address the deficit of modern energy services, which is a major barrier to social and economic development.”

A key component of the GCIP is the annual competition-based Accelerator, which identifies and supports the most promising cleantech innovations towards commercialization. A selected number of start-ups in a GCIP partner country participate in a rigorous, competitive national acceleration programme that trains, mentors, promotes and connects them to potential investors, customers and partners.

“The GCIP is currently the largest cleantech acceleration programme in the developing world,” explained Tareq Emtairah, Director of UNIDO’s Energy Department. “It has been implemented in Armenia, India, Malaysia, and Thailand, and, as of 2020, it is continuing its operations in Cambodia, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, Turkey, Ukraine and Uruguay.”

To date, the GCIP programme has accelerated over 1,300 cleantech start-ups across nine countries in diverse categories, ranging from renewable energy, energy efficiency, waste beneficiation, water efficiency, green buildings, sustainable transport, and advance materials and chemicals.

GCIP alumni take on COVID-19
Speaking about how GCIP alumni has reacted to COVID, UNIDO sustainable energy expert, Sun Young Suh, said that “many of GCIP alumni enterprises are actively addressing COVID-19 by leveraging constraints into new business opportunities adjacent to their existing operations, while others have engaged in co-innovation to develop new products to address the specific needs of developing countries arising from COVID-19 related measures. Some have even seen an increase in demand for their services.”

“As GCIP’s focus is on enhancing private sector competitiveness to deliver environmental and social benefits, GCIP alumni enterprises are well-equipped to respond to global crisis such as COVID-19,” she said.

In spite of the difficulties in the face of the global pandemic, GCIP’s alumni from around the world have risen to the COVID-19 challenge.

Morocco: drones, unmanned aerial vehicles and protective visors
Two alumni of the Moroccan GCIP, Farasha Systems and Shems for Lighting, have redirected their efforts to assist with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Farasha is at the forefront of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, providing maintenance services for energy infrastructures using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAEs) and artificial intelligence (AI). The start-up offers intelligent and predictive maintenance for industrial and renewable installations.

In response to COVID-19, the company has mobilized its resources to develop a spraying system fitted to a drone, which enables the disinfection of public spaces. In addition, the company has developed a thermal drone that can detect the temperature of people without approaching them.

Shems for Lighting has reoriented its solar lamp production workshop into a workspace for manufacturing protective visors. To date, the start-up has produced 6,000 visors that have been distributed to hospitals and law enforcement agencies.

The company is also developing a system of infrared lamps for the disinfection of public spaces and is also developing a solar-powered thermal camera system for monitoring body temperature.

South Africa: female entrepreneurs joining forces
Euodia Naanyane-Bouwer was the overall runner-up and winner of both the best women-led team and social impact innovation awards in the 2017 South African GCIP. She also received a special commendation for social impact at the GCIP Global Forum held in Los Angeles in January-February 2018. Her company, Gracious Nubian, is a social enterprise based in Bloemfontein in the Free State Province. The company designs, develops and manufactures an innovative washable sanitary pad that can be reused for up to two years.

Naanyane-Bouwer’s product is aimed at addressing both the high cost of sanitary pads – which keeps two-thirds of girls in rural areas out of school during menstruation – and the impact of disposable sanitary pads on landfill sites and water treatment plants. It is currently mainly distributed to girls in poor rural schools in the province through corporate social investment programmes and other forms of support.

Based on its established expertise and track record in the medical materials industry, Gracious Nubian joined forces to manufacture medical-grade face masks in partnership with the Vaal University of Technology, which is sponsoring the medical material, and Med-FM, a medical radio station, which is doing the marketing and distribution of the masks.

Capitalizing on the GCIP alumni network in South Africa, Naanyane-Bouwer will be working with Sandiswa Qayi, the 2016 GCIP-SA youth-led team winner, to provide face shields and face masks to impoverished rural schools in the Free State Province. Qayi’s company, AET Africa, manufactures the Hot Spot, a geyser sleeve that can be retrofitted over any standard geyser element to circulate water from the bottom to the top, providing hot water within 30 minutes, achieving significant energy savings. She repurposed an assembly plant in Dimbaza in the Eastern Cape to manufacture face shields and face masks for COVID-19. Current clients for these products include individuals, corporates and one government department.

With the reopening of schools in South Africa expected soon, the two companies will be utilizing Naanyane-Bouwer’s existing networks in the Free State Province to distribute face shields and masks to pupils in rural schools, together with the sanitary pads.

With the reopening of schools in South Africa expected soon, the two companies will be utilizing Naanyane-Bouwer’s existing networks in the Free State Province to distribute face shields and masks to pupils in rural schools, together with the sanitary pads.

Aqueous ozone an unlikely alternative to sanitizers
Andre Nel of Eco-V was selected as one of two GCIP-SA runner-up teams in 2015 for the innovative GreenTower Microgrids, which improves water and energy security through renewable hybrid solar energy, treated borehole water and “internet of things” optimization software.

In March 2020, a Royal Academy of Engineering grant was awarded to Eco-V for a GreenTower Microgrid pilot for schools. The project is undertaken in a partnership between Eco-V, Tshwane University of Technology and Coventry University, and will provide solar-powered and ozone-treated borehole water for sanitation.

In regards to fighting COVID-19, the company has decided to use aqueous ozone, which can be used as a sustainable alternative to sanitizers. Ozone dissolved in water is a safe and effective disinfectant capable of killing viruses when sprayed onto surfaces and can be easily created from the air using electricity. Thus, the company plans on applying ozone for use in sanitization for hand washing and for disinfecting classrooms and personal protective equipmentto address COVID-19. The ozone sanitizer will be tested to see if it is effective in sanitizing surfaces infected with COVID-19.

Thailand: female entrepreneurs unite to develop eco-friendly protective face masks
Tom Casava Ltd. (GCIP alumni 2016) utilizes waste cassava stumps from cassava plantations by converting them into high-value and high-price activated carbon for industrial, agriculture, household and health applications.

PETSMILE (GCIP alumni 2019) specializes in manufacturing absorbent pads and air purifiers, whilst Fang Thai Factory Ltd. from GCIP’s 2017 alumni produces pulp from rice straw, which is used for eco-friendly food packaging, utilizing innovative non-toxic processes.

The three start-up founders met through the GCIP Programme in 2019, and have reunited in response to COVID-19 to collaborate in the development of a high-quality face mask that aims to provide the highest level of protection that is also environmentally friendly.

Tom Casava is providing fully biodegradable air filters with micro-porous activated carbon prepared from cassava root that enable both air purification and the removal of harmful particles. Fang Thai Factory is contributing pure-grade microcrystalline cellulose from rice straw that offers cross-contamination reduction properties by reacting with toxic proteins such as secretions, and PETSMILE is contributing its expertise in manufacturing absorbent adult sanitary pads and air purifiers.

The trio is in the process of getting the licensing from the Food and Drug Administration before starting production and sale.

Eco & Smart Greenhouse: “Grow from home”
The Thai company, Eco & Smart Greenhouse, is a manufacturer of climate control, irrigation and fertilization systems, as well as solar and energy-saving products. The company describes its technology as simple to use, applying sensor technologies to modern greenhouses enabling their customers with the option to monitor and control their greenhouse systems from home via the internet and mobile phone. In addition, the company has developed a device to link the greenhouse with the company’s climate controllers, which can also control the application of fertilizers.

The company’s solution also allows farmers to grow their produce without the need to be physically present at the farm. Trouble-shooting and customer support can also be provided by remote computer, with Eco & Smart Greenhouse staff able to virtually meet with their customers via Zoom.

The company has experienced an uptick in business since the pandemic started, as many new customers decided that they wanted to grow their own food. In response, the company has had to invest more in its network to support increased demand.

The company has experienced an uptick in business since the pandemic started, as many new customers decided that they wanted to grow their own food. In response, the company has had to invest more in its network to support increased demand.

Pakistan: Using nanotechnology to develop face masks in the first line of defence: nano fibre-based N-95 MASK
As the coronavirus pervades communities around the globe, face masks have emerged as the first line of defence. Though a variety of them are available in the market, those such as the N-95, which is known for its high-level airborne particle filtration capability, are short in supply – besides being expensive.

With this in mind, a team of innovators at NanoClo, which was a semi-finalist of the GCIP Accelerator in 2016, set out to develop a mask that they claim can substitute for the N95 masks. The difference lies in the material being used – and the price. “We are using nanofibre membranes for filtration in the face mask,” said Prof Zeeshan Khatri of NanoClo.

Professor Khatri has been researching nanotechnology with his team since 2013. “It can filter up to 95 per cent of bacteria or viruses and prevents potential viral transmission.”

NanoClo, has sold more than 13,000 masks, mostly to health practitioners, in just a month after launching this product. The current daily production capacity is 1,000 masks, though they plan to increase it to 5,000 soon.

GCIP “disruptors” taking on the post-COVID and climate change challenge in frontier markets
The aftershocks from COVID-19 will continue to be felt for some time, but this rapid and mass social adjustment around the world, along with a multitude of COVID-instigated innovations, has also revealed to us all a glimpse of what is possible if cleantech innovation and cooperation are given precedence in the face of the escalating climate crisis.

“GCIP is designed to respond to the increasing global demand for environmental sustainability, climate action, and to address the barriers faced by SMEs in transforming their cleantech innovations into market ready solutions. To this end,” explained UNIDO’s Mhlanga, “GCIP’s expanded approach shall also encompass climate change adaptation and will help to support SMEs that provide technologies and services that increase climate resilience in frontier markets.”

“By their very nature, entrepreneurs are disruptors who are able to turn a challenge into a business opportunity,” said Mhlanga. “I believe that the GCIP alumni’s response to COVID-19 is testament to their dynamism and to the programme itself. These ingredients will be key as we go into a post-COVID future, where addressing and adapting to climate change will only become more critical.”

SolarGaps: Solar Panels for blinds

In an interview with CleanTech News, Yevgen discusses the inspiration behind the founding of SolarGaps and the challenges he faces encouraging widespread adoption.
SolarGaps is a company based in California that provides solar power in the form of blinds that can be controlled via an app on a smartphone. With a firm belief that green energy should be available to everybody, Yevgen Erik set out to design the world’s first solar blinds.

SolarGaps was recently listed as one of the finalists of the Katerva Awards.

Not everyone can mount solar panels on a roof
“Many homeowners want to use solar power, but not everyone has the option to mount a solar panel on a roof, especially those who live in the apartments or work in the offices.

The idea of creating SolarGaps came to me when I realized that solar modules can be installed not only on the top, but also on the facade of the buildings.”

Shading from the blinds can reduce energy consumption by up to 30%
“Most of our customers already have an established understanding about the importance of clean energy. Not all of them realize, however, the power of the shading effect.

Blinds are capable of keeping indoor temperatures cool and eliminate glare. Thus, by using the abundant vertical space, SolarGaps can prevent heat from entering through the windows, and reduce energy to power the main building’s operations.

According to independent studies, external shading devices decrease energy consumption of the building by around 30 percent when installed on the sunny side. Which means, in turn, reduced AC usage.”

SolarGaps produce enough power to charge 50 smartphones and provide active shading while at it
SolarGaps are the first external blinds that generate up to 100Wh per 1 sqm of electricity during sunny hours – enough to charge 50 smartphones, 3 laptops, or to power a TV.

“Solar modules follow the sun, just like the sunflowers in the field to ensure the most efficient sun capture.”

The smart blinds automatically adjusts the angle of its blinds in accordance to the sunlight intensity it receives for effective shading.

The smartphone application that resides on the user’s device also provides reports on the SolarGaps performance and also acts as a system control centre.

A mass-customisation model is a challenge
“The biggest challenge for encouraging widespread adoption of the product is the fact that every set of blinds has to be custom-made to match the perimeter of the window.

Customer will have to wait till their SolarGaps are produced and shipped to their country. The installation of SolarGaps proved to be quite a challenge as well.

To address them, we are working on a local distribution network to shorten the time to market.”

Moving forward
“At the moment, we are working on the development of the B2B product for commercial buildings where we believe have the biggest potential in obtaining maximum economic and ecological benefits from SolarGaps.

The blinds could be integrated into existing building management systems, reduce air-conditioning usage, and generate green energy.”

Leathered up! Danish startup Beyond Leather is here

As the cruelty-free fashion movement advances, innovative designers, such as those at Beyond Leather, are finding ways to create leather-like products, to support animals and the planet.
For fashion-forward individuals, family gatherings can be a frustrating experience, with unwelcome remarks made on hairstyles and jokes about ripped jeans.

But, Beyond Leather is far from a joke. For those who enjoy the texture and style of leather, but don’t want an animal to die for it, Beyond Leather has a solution: apple pulp.

The Danish startup created a durable leather, made from 70% apple waste and 30% environmentally friendly ingredients.

In 2019, Denmark’s annual turnover of organic wine, cider and spirits reached 351m Danish kroner (€47m/£42m). With a lot of pulp leftover, the startup got to work on using it and have formulated a vegan leather.

Beyond Leather just won the Clim@ 2020 virtual competition for “Thinking outside of the box” in its design. Contributing to a circular economy is not the only positive impact of Beyond Leather.

The impact of leather on the environment
Of all the animals used in animal agriculture and those whose skins supply the fashion industry, cows cause the most harm to our planet:

There are over 900m cows alive today (which peaked at over a billion, in 2014), all of which emit the greenhouse gas, methane. High levels of this gas are weakening the ozone layer, just like carbon dioxide emissions.
Cows need up to 60 litres of water a day. An apple tree only requires one inch of water a week (for it to filter out carbon dioxide, produce oxygen and fruit).
Brazil is rated as the second-highest producer of beef and leather in the world. To meet demand, farmers need more land. In 2019, this led to man-made forest fires across the Amazon jungle, a territory which provides 6% of the earth’s oxygen.
In manufacturing leather, the process of tanning uses toxic chemicals, such as chrome. After use, the water-based waste is disposed of and can pollute local water sources, causing harm to communities.
If there were less, or no cows used in the fashion industry, each of these problems would have a reduced effect on the health of the planet.

Animal skin is falling out of fashion
Beyond Leather joins a growing fashion trend, that is rejecting the use of animals in the manufacture of their clothing. This is for both environmental and ethical reasons.

Vegan racing driver, Lewis Hamilton, approached employer Mercedes Benz and ask them to forgo using animal products in their vehicles (such as leather seating). The company are now looking into alternatives.

In 2019, Angela Kelly, dresser to Queen Elizabeth II, announced that from that year on, Her Majesty would wear only faux fur. Although, the Queen will continue to wear fur items already in her wardrobe.

There are cruelty-free brands such as Stella McCartney, and branches which offer vegan options like Topshop and Zara. By avoiding leather, they will all add towards lowering the levels of greenhouse gasses emitted into the fragile atmosphere of planet earth.

To clarify, there are differences between the two terms: “Cruelty-Free” relates to a product which has not been tested on animals, whilst a vegan item contains no animal-based ingredients.

You can read more about which brands are cruelty-free here. Check out more sustainable fashion from bamboo fabric, to recycled eyewear!

Fighting the impact of methane with TeknTrash

One small start-up is fighting the impact of greenhouse gas, methane, and the impact of human waste.
There are some wild ideas out there in the cleantech world. But since apple pulp vegan leather has worked, no idea should be scorned at. Enter TeknTrash.

The British start-up uses artificial intelligence to identify waste at landfill sites. TeknTrash then looks at the sales history of the product to inform companies about their consumer data. They look at how long it took for the product to be disposed of after being sold.

“TeknTrash is kind of a strange company, in the sense that, we are not in the renewable or recycling sphere, but in the data sphere,” explained CEO, Al Costa. “However, we honestly believe that at the end, we will end up creating more environmental value, that many of the companies focused on that area.”

Recycling rewards
While zero-waste and recycling are gaining popularity across the world, TeknTrash is also looking at what is wasted and could still be useful to businesses.

“Our end product, data, is more valuable than paper, glass or metal, so we are able to generate more revenue,” Costa said.

This is not a form of data mining, where existing databases are searched to acquire new details. TeknTrash uses a service called Stipra.

Stipra members (who can register for free) can take a photo or a video of the items they no longer need and throw away the products. For each item that Stipra recognises, the user earns points and are ranked among other users.

Explaining the importance of Stipra to the start-up, Costa stated:

There [in Stipra], regular people take pictures of their consumer products, before throwing them in the trash – and get paid for it. Companies then go to Stipra and consume that data, geolocating where their products ended up and thus generating useful sales patterns.”

Methane is to blame
Costa hopes that TeknTrash will have an impact on what is left at landfill sites, with people thinking more carefully about life after landfill and the environmental impact.

“Through better rewards,” Costa said, “We create an incentive for people to recycle better. So at the end, less methane – the most common greenhouse gas produced at dumpsites – is generated, thus creating a real carbon decrease.”

Whilst methane is well known to be produced by cows when they pass gas, methane is also created in landfills, as well as in the extraction of coal, oil and natural gas from the Earth.

Within one year of solid waste being left in a landfill, the rubbish endures aerobic decomposition, where a small amount of methane is created.

Then, methane-producing bacteria start decomposing the thrown away items, generating a higher volume of the odourless and colourless methane which weakens our atmosphere.

In 2018, Methane comprised 10% of the total greenhouse gas emissions for that year. Whilst carbon dioxide stood at 81% and is certainly a more severe problem to be dealt with,

Even if the whole planet stopped using cows in animal agriculture, the greenhouse gas would still be produced in landfill sites and unofficial rubbish dumps. But, exciting start-up, TeknTrash, is making an effort to lower this.

ReCube: A Single-Use Plastic Alternative

CleanTech News chats with the co-founder of Refillable and Cupable, Purav Desai, who hopes to raise awareness in Mumbai about choosing sustainable packaging options and avoiding single-use plastics.
ReCube is a company based in Mumbai, India, that designs packaging systems to reduce the use of single-use plastic packaging. ReCube has two main business functions: Cupable and Refillable.

Describing single-use plastic as “a disease”, ReCube is a “social company that seeks to revolutionize the way we consume every day,” designing smart packaging that will last without polluting or generating waste.

Through its Cupable business arm, ReCube provides reusable drinkware for events that can be collected and cleaned post-use for the next customer.

ReCube has also recently launched the Refillable initiative, which conveniently dispenses homecare and personal care products to the consumers’ residence.

When speaking with CleanTech News, Purav Desai discusses company emissions, encouraging reuse in consumers and the challenges of sustainable practices in Mumbai, a city of 18m people.

India’s unique grocery retail industry is fuelling the plastic waste crisis
‘Mom and pop’ shops are the backbone of India’s grocery retail market with a network of 12 million across the country and 98% of market share. Known locally as “kirana” stores, they provide everything, from food condiments to personal care items.

These items are however usually sold in single-use plastic sachets to reduce cost, and also because locals are often paid a daily or weekly wage. Purav told CleanTech News: “Sachets have the lowest plastic waste value, because it is a composite product in tiny amounts. Recycling them would not make economical sense and there has been little incentive for sachet collection programmes.

“We have a two pronged strategy to reach out to rural communities and slums. With the refill truck as part of Refillable, we will park it near the community slum on a designated day and time.

“Customers will be able to refill their products in quantities of 50ml, 100ml – the amount usually purchased in sachets. With the help of our partners and external organisations, we could look to give them further discounts to incentivise them to keep up with the refilling instead of buying in sachets.”

How has the landscape reacted to ReCube?
“Customers are finding it accessible – we’re bringing it to the people!”

We recently did an article on EthicoIndia, a startup based in Mumbai which facilitates beach cleanups. Is the city a particularly environmentally conscious one?
“Mumbai is a metropolitan city, where people come from all over the country. While people are generally aware of environmental issues, they are not willing to pay the extra costs for sustainable products.

“There has also been a shift in sustainable packaging – some companies have moved to paper with a plastic lining, which is still no good. This all goes to landfill as contaminated plastic cannot be recycled.”

What challenges have you faced?
“People are not willing to pay the extra costs for sustainable products, and awareness about the reasoning behind higher costs is a big issue. Our hope for the future is to eradicate single use plastic and encourage awareness among customers, to look at the carbon footprint behind the price.”

What has been the impact of carbon emission from ReCube?
“We have no third party auditing, but we know we have saved much from landfill [which reduces methane emissions].”

How does ReCube ensure that consumers reuse enough, to off-set resources incurred in the production of reusables?
“In India, people usually save take-away boxes for later use. We hope to tap on this existing habit, where consumers already reuse their packaging. This way, we off-load the mass cleaning and collection problem that most other businesses would face in their models.”

How do you ensure that your/the (which businesses) businesses retain their branding?
“To retain the branding of our partners, we advertise on our mobile trucks. The brand perception would also change for the better, as consumers recognise it as an effort to reduce packaging waste.”

Urban Farming: Cities are growing crops on their roofs to secure food supplies

The urgency for food security in Singapore was further highlighted by Covid-19 as this virus put the resilience of supply chains to the test.
Singapore imports 90% of its food, and the city is eager to be self-sufficient and has invested considerably in urban farming.

Government seeks to support small-scale urban farms
Singapore’s food security strategies have enabled it to tide over supply chain disruptions so far, but “if the crisis is a protracted one lasting more than six months, there might be a need for people to step up to supplement the government’s efforts” food security expert, Professor Paul Teng told the Straits Times.

For instance, residents could be more open to purchasing frozen food instead of fresh and choose to buy local produce to gradually move away from import dependence.

Before the pandemic, the Singapore government had pledged $207m ($149m (US)) to help farmers boost productivity and fund research. An additional $30m was pumped in after the pandemic’s disruptions to global markets for food.

Farms on Roofs
The rooftops of nine multi-storey car parks managed by the Housing Development Board (HDB) will soon be made available for urban farmers to rent space and grow crops. Currently, only 1% of its scarce land is being used for agriculture.

Urban Agriculture: Cities are growing crops on their roofs to secure food supplies – CleanTech News
Source: TODAY
This is part of Singapore’s “30-by-30” goal – to produce 30% of the country’s nutritional needs locally by 2030. The sites will be used to farm mainly vegetables since they are relatively easy to grow and nutritionally dense.

Sustenir: How Vertical Farming Grew Strawberries in a Tropical Climate
Sustenir is a Singapore-based agri-tech company that made headlines with its strawberry and arugula produce in its hydroponic facility. Vertical farming technology presents an alternative for tropical countries like Singapore by growing non-native crops.

The company uses a laboratory-controlled vertical farming method based on artificial intelligence and LED lighting. The use of LED lighting hastens the photosynthesis rate as its growth is no longer dependent on sunlight exposure.

By growing locally, the gradual move-away from import dependence will in turn reduce carbon emissions and food waste in the transportation process. The company has also set up shop in Hong Kong growing kale – a country with similar space constraints.

Can you grow your own food?
Globalisation has removed the need for communities to get involved in food production. This is especially true in cities, but studies have shown that cities are capable of meeting up to 100% of its fresh produce needs, which could result in savings of $115 million annually.

Covid-19 has caused disruptions to domestic food supply chains and production. The United Nations World Food Programme warned that an estimated 265 million people could face acute food insecurity by the end of 2020, up from 135 million before the pandemic.

The situation is further aggravated by more frequent extreme weather events and pests such as the current locusts plague – the worst recorded in 70 years, impacting food production in 23 countries.

Urban Farming for Food Security and the Environment
Beyond supply chain resilience, urban farming methods also shelter crops from natural disasters and are more reliable with less dependence on rainfall and sunshine.

The current industrial agriculture system is accountable for high energy costs for the transportation of foodstuffs. A study by Rich Pirog, the associate director of the Leopold Centre for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, has shown that the average conventional produce item travels 2,400 km – using 1 US gallon of fossil fuel.

Similarly, a study by Marc Xuereb and Region of Waterloo Public Health estimated that switching to locally grown food could save nearly 50,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide or the equivalent of almost 17,000 car emissions.

Green roofs can also curb air and noise pollution – a notorious problem for many major cities. A rooftop containing 2000 m² of uncut grass has the potential to remove 4000kg of particulate matter – another health concern in urban cities. Only one square metre of green roof is needed to offset the annual particulate matter emissions of a car.

Think green: these organisms are fighting the climate crisis

Scientists, engineers, architects and those from countless other professions, have been investigating new ways to create everyday items from materials which cause less harm to our planet.
Here are two examples of ingenious ideas which are fighting the climate crisis.

Fungi fighting climate change – and conventions
As previously reported by CleanTech News, cement (an ingredient in concrete) accounts for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Canadian start-up, Carbicrete has discovered a carbon-negative equivalent for building: steel slag.

However, Dutch designers at Company New Heroes have gone one clog-step further, by creating The Growing Pavillion – a building made from mushroom roots.

When mixed with bio-waste (such as hemp stalks) and left in an isolated mould container, the organism slowly starts to grow.

The company decided to manufacture such pieces into a pavilion, to challenge other architects to think green.

The Growing Pavillion is an attempt to inspire the constructing world, to envision a building process with only biobased materials,” said Lucas De Man, CEO Company New Heroes.

We have shown for the first time, ever, how you can really construct a pavilion, a building, with only biobased materials.”

Also, bio-based materials can store carbon dioxide. “When you use materials made out of plants, you don’t release Co2. Your house can be a storage for Co2, instead of a Co2 problem,” concluded De Man.

Instead of cutting down trees for furniture, Company New Heroes are looking at designing items. These items, such as tables and chairs, will all be made from mushroom roots, instead of trees.

If successful, this will leave more trees in the soil, where they can capture carbon dioxide in their air and release oxygen. Bio-buildings will leave a much smaller carbon footprint than traditional ones.

3D printing with oranges
You may have heard of the affordable 3D printed limbs improving the lives of amputees or the ambitious plant-based 3D printed steak. They leave a far smaller carbon footprint than the real thing.

Now, the Carlo Ratti Associati has created Circular Juice Bars, after entering into a partnership with energy company Eni.

The bars create 3D printed cups for customers on the go, made from the orange peel of the oranges it serves as juice.

At Circular Juice Bars, oranges are peeled and pulped. The skin is then left to dry and finely chopped down to a fine, grey powder.

After being mixed with Polylactic Acid, the bioplastic is ready to be used in 3D printing. Once set as a sturdy, leak-proof cup, it is filled with fresh orange juice – and served with extra zest!

This example of an environmentally-circular economy, uses up the whole orange, leaving nothing to waste. This is because the 3D printed cup will biodegrade soon after use.

Circular Juice Bars have already been installed in Milan and are expected to be rolled out through other locations in the future.

Check out other methods of carbon negative homes in another article here.

What will be next in fighting the climate crisis? Watch this space…

Climate TRACE: The new GHG emissions monitoring project from the Climate TRACE coalition

A new Global Coalition of green NGOs and technology companies, Climate TRACE, will combine artificial intelligence (Al) and data from satellites to monitor global greenhouse gas emissions in real-time.
A greenhouse gas emission monitoring project, Climate TRACE, has been created by the Climate TRACE Coalition, a group of climate change non-profits and technology companies.

The project started when US-based non-profit, WattTime partnered with the UK based, Carbon Tracker to apply for the Al Impact Challenge by in 2019.

WattTime and Carbon Tracker won the $1.7 million grant from for their project to monitor all global power plant emissions using satellites in space. also sent 7 data engineers and machine learning Fellows to work with the non-profits to develop the project for 6 months.

Soon after they announced the winners of the grant, former US Vice President, Al Gore became a collaborator on the project. Stated on the website, Al Gore “long suspected that improved global emissions monitoring through satellites and AI held dramatic potential to accelerate climate progress”.

The Climate TRACE project
Climate TRACE will use artificial intelligence (AI), satellite imagery of greenhouse gas emissions, infrared heat imaging, and nitrogen oxide sensor data to monitor harmful emissions.

According to the Climate TRACE website, “the coalition aims to track human-caused emissions to specific sources in real-time—independently and publicly”.

Climate TRACE will yield more accurate up to date information
The technology used by Climate TRACE could yield far more accurate, detailed, and up to date information than the methods currently available to governments and researchers.

The standard worldwide is that countries self-report their emissions. This can lead governments, companies, and scientists to use outdated even inaccurate information from deliberate under-reporting.

At best, the information collected from manual self-reporting is “incomplete, high-level summary information,” stated in the press release.

Gavin McCormick, WattTime Executive Director said:

The Earth is like a medical patient suffering from a condition called climate change.

Trying to fix it with only years-late, self-reported emissions data is like asking a doctor to fix a serious disease with no more information than a list of symptoms the patient had years ago.

There’s a reason hospitals use blood pressure monitors, stethoscopes — may be an X-ray or MRI — to check what’s wrong with you right now. If we’re serious about stopping climate change, it’s time we gave climate ‘doctors’ the same kind of tools.”

The Climate TRACE coalition
Along with Al Gore, Carbon Tracker, and WattTime, the closed coalition is made up of 9 non-profits and technology companies. These companies include CarbonPlan, Earthrise Alliance, Hudson Carbon, Blue Sky Analytics and Hypervine.

Climate TRACE is currently in the prototype stage of development.

This tool could potentially become invaluable for detecting illegal polluters, monitoring, and verifying compliance in carbon cap-and-trade markets and international climate change agreements.

The Coalition expects the first full global data report to be released in the summer of 2021.

How solar-powered tablets are educating rural communities about COVID-19 in Mozambique

By Elisabeth Kisakye and Leisa Burrell

“We use solar-powered tablets to conduct community education campaigns on financial education, contraception and HIV, health, vaccinations, civic education, and now to inform communities about measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” says Dayn Amade, founder of the Tablet Comunitário/Community Tablet.

In the wake of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus and realizing the need to disseminate information about the spread and prevention of COVID19 and other health-related issues, the Community Tablet initiative, with support received from the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF), is conducting digital campaigns in communities that are otherwise excluded from digital information.

The Community Tablet initiative is the first digital school in Mozambique. The Community Tablet is a container consisting of four to six large LCD screens, powered by solar panels and transported by trailer, which can be attached to anything – from a motor vehicle to a donkey.

The interactive touch screen can be linked with cameras and a large screen to allow inclusive and group outdoor video conferencing. The touch screen can also disseminate videos, and can also be used as a digital white board. For connectivity, the tablet is linked to the internet network via the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) or by satellite. This infrastructure is also prepared with a plug-and-play cold chain compartment, which can incorporate fridges or a freezer to allow for the storing and handling of vaccines

The Community Tablet delivers customized animations that are relevant and familiar to local communities. Gamification helps to increase engagement, while also collecting vital data to demonstrate how well a message has been understood.

“The need for innovative measures to reach communities with the message of how to prevent the spread of the pandemic cannot be underestimated in times like these. With the use of power from solar panels, we can display digital information in video form, which makes it much easier for rural communities to understand the message about COVID19,” explains Amade.

The Community Tablet initiative is part of a technology transfer cluster hosted by UNIDO in Mozambique. Since hitting the road in 2015, it has helped to educate more than one million Mozambicans across 90 communities.

Earlier this year, UNIDO handed over 10 solar kits, enabling the initiative to start converting the Community Tablets from diesel to solar power.

For several years, the Community Tablets were being powered by diesel generators which contributed to a higher operational costs as well as negative impacts on the environment. The promoter gradually started to look for more sustainable solutions to overcome this problem, and they experimented solar power but the cost was still very much prohibitive at a local level. Now with the solar kits, consisting of a five 250w solar panels, one 3kW hybrid inverter, four 200AH batteries and accessories including circuit breakers, plugs and terminals, the Community Tablets are being converted to solar power. So far three out of 10 Community Tablets have been converted.

Besides supporting the Community Tablet’s ongoing work on a wide range of topical issues, the solar-powered tablets will be used for the purpose of knowledge transfer during renewable energy-related capacity building and technology demonstration sessions as part of UNIDO’s ’Towards Sustainable Energy for All in Mozambique project.

Amade explained that the 10 solar kits would not only make the use of Community Tablet more effective, but would also reduce the expense of the panels and accessories such as inverters and batteries. “One solar kit alone and its accessories in Mozambique is very expensive, but with the kits that UNIDO has provided, the cost will be reduced by 35%.”

To date, the digital health education campaigns have reached 1,900 people in 31 districts have been reached through. Of these, 500 (mostly women) have been reached during the COVID-19 education campaign conducted in May and June 2020.

The Community Tablet initiative, with UNIDO and the GEF’s support, is also planning to reach communities located on islands in Mozambique. The amphibious tablet is the current innovation powered by solar energy with the aim of offering health solutions to communities residing in hard-to-reach places.

Project contact persons:

Carlos Chanduvi-Suarez, Project Manager


Vicente Matsinhe, National Project Coordinator