Special Startup Series: Biopolymer based purification & fortification of drinking water

Kolkata based startup, N-Science Sustainable Solutions has developed a unique affordable product that ensures the cleanliness and fortification of water using sustainable and locally sourced raw materials

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Drinking water and nutrition still remain a privilege for a major part of the population. As per recent reports of UNESCO, 140 million children are at the risk of under 5 mortality and 135 billion still don’t have access to pure drinking water.

While many sincere efforts have been made to mitigate these issues, the scale at which these thrive makes it difficult to solve both in one go. However, the Kolkata based startup, N-Science Sustainable Solutions has developed a unique technology which has the potential to serve both the purposes. Not only does the technology purify water to make it worth drinking, but also adds essential micro-nutrients to it.

Founded by Dr Devlina Das, this startup is working on novel ideas to create sustainable solutions focusing on cleanliness and fortification using locally sourced raw materials.

The R&D focus & its outcome

As per Dr Devlina Das, Founder and Director, N-Science Sustainable Solutions, water treatment and biopolymers have always been her areas of interest. She took the decision to initiate the industry-oriented research when she found a need for bridging the existing gaps within the efforts to tackle purification and fortification. “While the need for nutrition and pure water could be met but our major motivation was a larger lacunae which at some point connects the two bare necessities for day to day life,” she says.

The technology that this startup has been working on recently is ‘Flocculation’. Based on this technology, the company has trademarked ‘B-Clay’, particularly for water treatment. This product works on adsorption and effective against heavy metals. Biopolymers have been used to create fortification sheets. So as a complete package, ‘PurVital Minis’ is its product of interest ensuring both water purification and fortification.

PurVital is a system of purifying tablet and a fortifying shell. Tablet adsorbs impurities whereas shell fortifies water by slow leaching of vital nutrients. Each PurVital sachet can be used for a week and treat up to 25 Liters of water. The outer shell, based on the vitamin or ion content, dosage limits can be prescribed by physicians.

PurVital can be made with or without chitosan and in case of allergies, the formulation can be modified without chitosan. Moreover, the product does not have any adverse effects while being in metal containers.

Challenges and motivation

The major challenge faced by the Devlina while developing the concept and product for the company was to build a team with people interested in the same area of work.

“Mentorship and incubation facilities have been great. Major problem was initially convincing the institutes regarding BIG program, but now most institutes welcome and even go the extra mile to support,” says Devlina who also rightly raises an important point: “During our Masters and PhD, we are not aware of this kind of schemes and not prepared well in advance. Most scientists including me have little or no knowledge of business, I wish there is a mandatory one week course to understand the same or extra support from a mentor.”

Dr Devlina Das, Founder and Director, N-Science Sustainable Solutions.

Devlina praises IKP and BIRAC for providing a platform for interaction, networking with the stalwarts in this area and the suggestions have been extremely valuable to develop the product in the least possible time.

“IKP and BIRAC have played a huge role in mentoring us to develop a product that would address the unmet need and identify the need which was technically not an easy task to be identified and addressed without their valuable mentorship. Amenities, timely help, and cooperation, needless to say, have always been there and the best part is the nurturing we received to develop the technology right from a scratch. IKP quick response in times of distress is very helpful,” mentions Devlina.

“Being in their network, brought us in touch with few international collaborators in Germany and looking forward to working with them on water treatment. Special thanks to Deepanwita madam, Ranajit Sen and Viswanadham,” she adds furher.

Eyeing a huge market

The market specifically for fortified water is not completely defined. However, one can have a basic idea on the market by analyzing the market of drinking water treatment and fortified food.

                                      Indian Market of Water Purification Systems

The global market for fortified food is 72 billion USD (As per India Today Reports). The company believes that the market lacunae has to be addressed by increasing affordability. It is also looking at capturing certain markets as 7 percent still remains untapped in the area of water purifiers.

The company is looking at creating value addition with fortifying components. The company’s ideas would create a job opportunity due to the provision of self-manufacturing. Especially for the safety certification issue, the team is determined to use natural and ayurvedic origin components.

Way Forward

While the product has been developed and validated, currently it is undergoing the process of certification. The marketing campaign by the company would target majorly women and children with vitamin deficiencies.

“This would be a low-cost FMCG lifestyle enhancing product. Being priced at Rs 5 to Rs 10, this product would target the low-income group as well and we also intend to market to UN regions where it could address issues related to water purity and malnutrition,” informs Devlina.

The company has initiated product development under four different brands which would ensure cleanliness and fortification using sustainable materials. Devlina spells out the future plan: “In the next five years, we would majorly want to grow as a reliable manufacturer and bring invariants which would be catering to the customer needs. First two years we would be exploring the markets with the four created brands. The next three years would be crucial in terms of business expansion and working on variants.”

Our best of wishes to this unique startup for its journey ahead!