From burning fields to sustainable packaging: a biotech innovation Journey
29 January 2024 UNIDO
It is a common sight in Malaysia to see paddy fields set on fire by farmers after the harvest to eliminate crop residue. The smoky haze lasts for months and contributes to air pollution, affects road safety and impacts health.
That’s why environmental auditor Ramaness Parasuraman launched Free the Seed, a pioneering company that makes sustainable packaging from plant-waste cellulosic fibrous materials. Free the Seed converts waste biomass materials, such as rice straw and husks, into biodegradable packaging products, delivering substantial benefits to diverse stakeholders.
The company employs a patented biotechnology process, incorporating protease serene enzymes, delignified cellulose fibers and enzymatic gratification methods to craft packaging products that, once used, naturally decompose within six months.
Parasuraman’s efforts have paid off.
In 2014 came major validation: Free the Seed was selected as the national winner of the Global Cleantech Innovation Programme (GCIP) for SMEs in Malaysia. Facilitated by the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT) and UNIDO and financially supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the programme strategically leverages entrepreneurial expertise to address complex challenges in energy, the environment and the economy. Its primary objective is to nurture and accelerate the development of the next generation of Malaysian cleantech entrepreneurs.
Besting 60 other applicants, Free the Seed secured a $30,000 prize and an all-expenses-paid trip to Silicon Valley for the Cleantech Open Global Forum, where Parasuraman connected with potential partners, customers, and investors from around the world.
GCIP has been transformative for the company, Parasuraman beams, “The GCIP platform provides a unique, results-oriented platform for start-ups and green tech entrepreneurs for funding access and market access. We also benefitted from participating in international conferences organized by UNIDO, GEF and MIGHT.”
And there are significant knock-on effects too.
Free the Seed positively impacts more than 1,200 farmers enabling them to earn vital additional income by selling previously burned waste rice straw.
Total estimated environmental impact of Free the Seed? A six-million-kilogram annual decrease in CO2 emissions, plus a reduction of plastic waste in oceans and seas, and support for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to decarbonization.
Parasuraman continues to think big: he envisions his company's sustainable solutions reaching Europe, North America, and beyond.
The story of Free the Seed exemplifies the power of entrepreneurship, innovation, and environmental responsibility.
Project name: Global Cleantech Innovation Programme (GCIP)