The Eco-Friendly Bio-Thermocol from paddy and wheat stubble developed by scientists at the Central Institute of Post Harvest Engineering and Technology (CIPHET) in Ludhiana, Punjab, a part of the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR).
In a remarkable breakthrough, scientists at CIPHET in Ludhiana, have successfully addressed the long-standing problem of stubble burning in Haryana and Punjab. Their innovative solution is a groundbreaking material known as ‘bio-thermocol,’ derived from paddy and wheat stubble, offering a sustainable alternative to traditional thermocol, notorious for its environmental impact.
Dr. Ramesh Chand Kasana, the principal scientist at CIPHET, has reported that they have patented this groundbreaking technique and entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with a local industrial unit to commence the commercial production of bio-thermocol.
Eco-Friendly Bio-Thermocol Production Process
The production of bio-thermocol begins with the careful chopping of the stubble into small pieces, each measuring up to a centimeter. These chopped remnants are then sterilized in a laboratory setting. A crucial element in this innovative process is the use of a substrate known as “spawn,” which generates mycelium, a fungal network. Mycelium serves a dual purpose, acting as an adhesive that binds the processed stubble while imparting a white color to the resulting paste. This paste can be molded into various shapes and sizes. The entire production cycle takes approximately 20 days.
Dr. Kasana underscores the remarkable properties of bio-thermocol, emphasizing that it is biodegradable and poses no harm to the environment. Furthermore, it is as lightweight as traditional thermocol, making it a suitable choice for packaging applications.
Diverse Applications and Prospects
Beyond packaging, the scientists at CIPHET envision a multitude of applications for bio-thermocol. It could potentially serve as an alternative material for roof ceilings and find uses in insulation and plastering for concrete pillars. However, it is essential to note that these applications are still in their early stages of experimentation.
This groundbreaking development offers not only an environmental solution to the issue of stubble burning but also a promising income-generating opportunity for farmers. By selling their stubble to industries, farmers can augment their earnings. CIPHET has already forged MOUs with local industrial units to facilitate this symbiotic relationship.
Dr. Renu Bala of CIPHET underscores that these partnerships will enable farmers to avoid the environmentally damaging practice of consigning their agricultural waste to the flames.
Beyond Bio-Thermocol: An Array of Initiatives
The pioneering work at CIPHET extends beyond the realm of bio-thermocol. The institute has introduced an innovative organic jaggery-making technique, which has already found adoption by a forward-thinking farmer who exports organic jaggery to Canada.
To put the magnitude of the stubble issue into perspective, consider that Punjab’s farmers cultivate paddy over 7.5 million acres, yielding a staggering 22 million tons of stubble annually. Tragically, a substantial portion of this stubble, amounting to 10 million tons, is burned each year, resulting in severe environmental harm.
In a concerted effort to address this issue, both Punjab and Haryana have implemented in-situ and ex-situ management strategies aimed at reducing farm fires. Punjab reports a commendable 55% reduction in farm fire cases, and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate has confirmed a significant 54% decrease in fire incidents compared to the previous year. This trend suggests that innovative solutions like bio-thermocol could revolutionize the farming landscape and ecological well-being in the region.