Chyau Technologies – Innovators aspiring to rid Kathmandu of pollution using algae
If you are an avid follower of Reddit’s r/Nepal section, chances are that you have come across Algae Reactor Machine. The machine by Chyau Technologies has become a subject of hot discussion in the Reddit community. Rightfully so because the latest machine by the team at Chyau Technologies is a glimpse of hope to the denizens of Kathmandu valley which has been rendered almost uninhabitable due to pollution. The Algae Reactor Machine combines waste air, wastewater, and algae to give oxygen as output, ultimately cleaning the surrounding. So, we reached out to Gunjan Ghimire, Founder of Chyau Technologies, to dig out the story behind the innovative machine.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you started Chyau Technologies.
I come from an engineering background. I studied mechanical engineering at the University of New Orleans and worked for a year abroad. After that, I returned to Nepal and was looking to align my academic background with biodiversity. Thus, with the support of the team that I congregated, began Chyau Technologies where we initially developed an insulation panel using mushrooms.
How was the idea of the Algae Reactor Machine conceptualized?
Alongside the work on insulation panels, we were also conducting research on carbon sequestration. We found out that the sequestration process can be effectively done using algae and other waste components. It could also ramp up the financial earnings of our company via the production and selling of vegan leather made from algae. This realization gave rise to the idea of the Algae Reactor Machine. Interestingly, we also found algae to be a cheaper alternative for building insulation panels.
How does the Algae Reactor Machine work?
It uses waste and smokes released by hospitals, households, and waste incinerators which contain a lot of sulfate and nitrate. The algae’s photosynthesis phenomenon absorbs them as nutrients and fertilizers. The machine combines surrounding sunlight, carbon dioxide, waste air, and wastewater during photosynthesis and releases oxygen as output. It also causes the existing algae to multiply, causing increment of biomass.
What are your motivations for building the Algae Reactor Machine?
The following three incidents were my motivations:
1) Me and Riwaz, my long-time friend and teammate at Chyau Technologies, were researching around Kathmandu to explore what sort of businesses entrepreneurs are engaged in. At one instance, Riwaz randomly said something funny that triggered me “Money is flowing in the air, we need a vacuum to absorb all of that money”. I kind of took these words literally and vowed to build this machine.
2) Before the development of the Algae Reactor Machine, we were engaged in a tree plantation project by throwing seed bullets using a drone. The objective of this project was to increase oxygen concentration in the targeted areas. However, we needed 50,000 trees to reach our expected breakeven level. So generating oxygen via this strategy seemed difficult.
3) My final motivation came about with this contemplation – “30 years back people of Kathmandu did not need to buy water. But, selling water is a big business now. There might be a need to buy oxygen too in the next 30 years.” It sounds outrageous but I made a bet that if I can convince this idea to 10 people, I will make the Algae Reactor Machine. Since, 10 people managed to buy my idea, I was cornered into building the machine’s prototype.
How do you make money from this project?
Of course, the primary source of revenue will be accumulated by selling the machine itself. Apart from that, the algae biomass can be used to make vegan leather which can be sold for additional revenue. Additionally, vegan leather is much cheaper than animal leather which is beneficial for the consumer market. Also, you do not have to kill animals!
Why did you choose to spread awareness about your product through Reddit?
I have been a Reddit user for a long time now. Reddit threads get a lot of organic followers and engagements. The discussions there are authentic and some users are even learned enough to provide recommendations and even teach you. This rarely occurs on other social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
Why did you start your venture in Nepal?
Well, the demographic concentration is dense in the eastern part of the world, particularly in India and China. Nepal, being my home country, was convenient for me to start my venture. Since my work was focused on carbon sequestration, I figured that inventing machines that combat carbon emissions would be appropriate in a region where carbon emission is excessive. Moreover, labor is also cheaper and biodiversity is a lot more accessible in Nepal.
Tell us about the affordability of the machine.
It is priced at 5 lakhs. The high price is the result of expensive raw materials in Nepal and the amount of time and effort required by the team to build the machine. It will need maintenance once a month. Also, data will be collected from the machine and uploaded to websites for use by environmentalists, researchers, and academics.
What are the hurdles you have experienced during your journey?
Financing the project is the hardest hurdle yet. Access to bank loan services has become difficult these days due to intricate legalities. Likewise, private investors look for an unreasonable share of profit. Every earning that we make goes back into investments. Until and unless we increase business size we do not make actual profits.
Finally, do you think the Algae Reactor Machine is a game-changer in battling Kathmandu’s pollution?
I will not be cocky enough to say that it is a game-changer. But it is one of the ways pollution can be mitigated in Kathmandu.