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Agents of Change: Three startups that are helping build a sustainable future

February 26, 2021 / 11:15 PM IST

Amid last year's unexpected challenge that fractured global economies, the World Economic Forum released its Global Risk Report, which informs the WEF’s multi-stakeholder initiatives throughout the year. For the first time in the survey’s history, the top five global risks were linked to environmental challenges: extreme weather, climate action failure, natural disasters, bio-diversity loss, and human-made environmental disasters. As environmental and economic risks are inextricably linked, companies are beginning to re-evaluate their business priorities and find ways to mitigate environmental challenges in addition to overall risk management and building business resilience.

In the past few years, emerging technologies have been a harbinger of change, facilitating sustainable development and accelerating economic progress. They have not only helped address business challenges across the value chain, but also revealed new insights and offered new solutions. Technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), 5G, Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain and others can significantly help measure sustainability performance. By helping capturing data in real time, they can offer an unparalleled degree of granularity, which can be leveraged to streamline business processes and drive positive environmental outcomes.

Entrepreneurs are increasingly driving sustainability innovations to meet the planet needs. Start-ups across the world are exploring ways and making significant contribution towards solve environmental problems. We look at three Indian start-ups that are changing the sustainability game.

Role of start-ups

The start-up ecosystem in India has evolved exponentially over the past decade with a vast majority, harnessing technology-led solutions to make a social and environmental impact. Among these, there is a panoply of socially conscious start-ups that are working to resolve environmental issues through a range of products and services to minimise carbon footprint, encourage waste management, plastic recycling, circular packaging solutions, and more.

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However, while many start-ups have the expertise to develop sustainable business models and adopt sustainability solutions, not all of them have adequate resources to scale up and support eco-innovation. To bridge the gap and help start-ups focus on new technologies and innovations to deploy game-changing solutions, AB InBev launched its global 100+ Accelerator programme in 2018, and the India specific Innovation Hub platform in 2020, inviting start-ups to solve real world challenges that will create a better world for all. This initiative brought together some of the brightest minds that are creating impactful sustainability solutions to protect our finite resources in the areas of responsible sourcing, water stewardship, and more.

Kisan Hub

In a bid to integrate digitisation in agriculture, and improve farmers' livelihood, the Kisan Hub platform allows companies like AB InBev to directly connect with farmers and help them access information to boost productivity. The platform further enables virtual crop monitoring, which aids the company’s team of agronomists to track crop growth and launch remedial measures in case operational efficiency is being impeded.

In case of climactic changes that will impact crop production, farmers can optimise their on-field operations by accessing advisories and weather alerts sent via SMS. The platform also provides data on soil quality and crop output, enabling the AB InBev team to comprehend how the two are interconnected and can be better optimised. Agronomists can even inspect and diagnose any damage done by insects or pests using images produced by the platform. This innovative platform is not only helping reduce the agricultural sector’s environmental footprint, but also combating climate change and ensuring water conservation and irrigation.

The Kisan Hub app allows AB InBev to drive digitisation and connectivity across its entire farmer base which in turn helps the organisation effectively collaborate with them to improve yield and quality. Both of which are evident in the great beers that the company brews.

General Aeronautics

Founded by acclaimed aircraft designer Dr. Kota Harinarayana and Abhishek Burman, along with Dr. Anutosh Moitra and Air Cmde P K Choudhary (Retd.), General Aeronautics (GA) was created to leverage the most effective aircraft design practices in the field of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) systems and solutions.

GA provides reliable and cost-effective drone systems to address agricultural needs and reduce the inefficiencies of manual spraying of pesticides. Their solutions offer spray reach and uniformity with unmatched droplet and flow-control, covering both identification (imaging) and solution delivery, ultimately resulting in reduction in water consumption as well as labour cost.

AB InBev has partnered with GA to use their UAVs to reduce burden on farmers of manual spraying and help them utilise drone-based services to achieve the same. As part of this collaboration, GA’s UAVs have been tested over 25 acers to deliver precision in agriculture.

Erthos

With a vision of a plastic-free environment and an aim to reduce plastic usage, Erthos uses plant-powered alternatives to replace traditional plastic inputs. They have successfully managed to reinvent the proverbial wheel and improve plastic waste management by transforming the way plastic is produced, consumed and disposed. A biodegradable plant-based plastic company, Erthos creates plant-powered plastics. They produce eco-resins that can be used by manufacturers in place of plastic.

By embedding this solution directly in AB InBev's supply chain, Erthos is driving a pivotal change by replacing toxic plastic waste with plant-based materials in manufacturing. Using these plant-powered plastics, AB InBev will be able to develop 100% compostable Keg caps while contributing to the reduction of significant plastic wastage and saving millions of litres of water.

Start-ups today are socially-conscious and aware of the pressing need to preserve natural resources. They are leveraging transformative innovations to tackle environmental challenges and deliver real world impact. In the pursuit to address global issues, start-ups can play an important role in building a more sustainable world for the next 100+ years and beyond.
first published: Feb 26, 2021 11:06 pm

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