Company born out of university project to tackle ‘stubble burning’ wins prestigious award

  • An energy start-up in India, formed out of an Aston University scheme, has won a prestigious award for its work
  • A2P Energy Solution, which harnesses technology and expertise developed through the Energy Harvest initiative, converts rice straw waste into energy products including pellets, oil, gas and biochar
  • By establishing a market for rice straw waste, A2P helps to improve air quality by eliminating open field burning

An energy start-up in India, born out of an Aston University scheme aiming to tackle the international challenge of dealing with agricultural waste, has won first prize in a prestigious award ceremony in Russia.

A2P Energy Solution, formed through the university’s European Bioenergy Research Institute’s (EBRI) Energy Harvest project, won the award in the Sustainable Energy category of the Global Maker Challenge, sponsored by the Mohammed Bin Rashid Initiative for Global Prosperity.

The company, founded in 2018 by Sukhmeet Singh, Sudhakar Sagi and Robert Berry, seeks to provide solution to the challenge existing in Northwest India relating to agricultural waste management. Farmers in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh regularly burn residual rice straw as it is seen as having little value. The burning causes substantial local disruption and health problems; additionally, large amounts of pollution are then blown by prevailing winds to the heavily populated city of Delhi.

In a bid to reduce the resulting health problems, A2P has established a supply chain that collects the paddy straw and produces energy pellets that can be used as a replacement for non-renewable fuels. These pellets can also be transformed through EBRI’s expertise in pyrolysis technology into biochar to help improve soil structure and crop yields.

A2P has converted 900 tonnes of waste in its first year of operations, saving 1.3 million kg of CO2. The company’s work has helped to change the perception in Punjab and surrounding areas of rice straw as a waste, while improving air quality by eliminating open field burning, providing local employment for rice straw harvesting, and offsetting the use of coal and other non-renewable fuels in local businesses.

Sukhmeet Singh, co-founder and CEO of A2P Energy Solution, said: “We are delighted to win the Sustainable Energy category of the Global Maker Challenge.

“The burning of excess rice straw causes losses to the tune of $30 billion which is 1.5 times India’s health and education budget.

“We are already seeing huge benefits from our work, and you can imagine the potential if we convert all of the 500 million tonnes of agricultural waste that is generated.”

Robert Berry, founder of EBRI’s Energy Harvest project, said: “I’m delighted to see the Energy Harvest project is making such a big difference in Punjab.

“After launching the project in 2010, we started exploring alternatives to open field burning through the introduction of Aston pyrolysis technology to see if we could establish a market for rice straw that would provide an incentive to local farmers to avoid burning the asset.

“Since then, we have established a number of demonstrators in India, including A2P Energy Solution, which has since been appointed as supplier to an IKEA India supply chain member in a bid to implement wider supply-chain sustainability improvements.

“A2P is now working with the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) to carry the principles of the Energy Harvest project into other rural villages in order to address rice straw waste management at a local level.

“I am particularly grateful to Michael Oglesby, the Oglesby Charitable Trust, and to Aston University for their long-term and continuing support of this project and its goals.”

More information can be found on the Energy Harvest project here.