The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam sees about 40 million pilgrims a year. The collective waste generated from the massive population amounts to about 40 tonnes per day.
The piling up of waste in the dump yard was a concern for Chandan Kagganapalli and Darshan Challuru, residents of the city. To address the issue, these engineering graduates decided to convert the organic waste into fertile and nutrient-rich manure.
In 2020, the Chandan launched startup Ecofinix and roped in Dharsan, alongside K Varun Kumar and M Praveen Kumar, to treat tonnes of waste from the temple town and motivating farmers to make the green switch by enabling them to pursue chemical-free farming.
Compost for Rs 4 a kilo
“Chandan and I met in a startup community, and we instantly connected to bring sustainable solutions to benefit the environment. We began exploring business ideas and during one of the brainstorming sessions, shared our concerns about the increasing amount of waste generated in the city. We felt it was our core responsibility to protect the charm of our homeland. Thus, we decided to set up a recycling and processing unit and immediately proposed the idea to the civic commissioner,” Dharsan says.
The 23-year-old says that the civic chief allowed them an opportunity. “We set up two units which treat the organic or wet waste in three different ways. The first method is traditional, where the waste is allowed to naturally decompose through bacteria, and then converting it into vermicompost,” he says, adding that the process takes about 40 days to create organic-rich manure.
Dharsan says the second method involves segregating dry and wet waste by carrying it on a treadmill-like conveyor belt. The dry waste is separated according to sizes for recycling, and the organic waste is composted through natural composting methods. “Here, solid waste like plastic and glasses is separated and recycled,” he says.
“The third method is the quickest, as the waste is introduced in a customised chamber made in collaboration with an engineering company. It is processed immediately, and the organic compost is ready the same day,” he adds.
The technological advances made it convenient for them to generate organic fertiliser, but convincing farmers to accept the change in agricultural methods was difficult, they say. “Farmers in the region had not used the vermicompost and did not trust the product. To convince them, we distributed 2,000 kilos of compost manure for free,” he says.
Chandan says the duo also demonstrated the benefits of using organic fertiliser by growing crops on a piece of land. “Slowly, farmers started accepting our organic compost. So far, over 1,000 are using it, after which we have also been targeting terrace gardeners,” he adds.
After succeeding in Tirupati, the startup expanded its work in neighbouring Rajahmundry with the help of the local civic body.
The organic compost is offered to the farmers at Rs 4 a kilo. The company treats 100 tonnes of waste a day and has a turnover of about Rs 10 lakh a month, Dharsan says.
“We are expanding our company to other states to help more farmers with better yields. Several campaigns to create awareness and increase the use of organic compost are being drawn to encourage farmers to do away with the use of chemicals,” he adds.