A good idea is not the same as developing technology: my journey as an N-GAGE agripreneur

In the past months, after the Summer School “Plunge into your own business plan” and coaching in Ghent, I was feeling that I still some way toward making significant progress in terms of developing an actual business.  

I understand that this is often the case with entripreneural start ups. What I had achieved  since my first project proposal was how I could spend the seed money that I had received in a way that would be enough to run tests to evaluate the use of nanofibers for plant protection. That involves a lot of research and lab time, failing and getting it right, and keeping track of real possible deliverables and keeping one eye on the clock and one on the budget.

With this learning, I have improved my project. Since the beginning, I have decided to use only biodegradable polymers to produce the odorant dispensers because this particular class of bioplastics its decomposed by bacterial process, resulting in natural byproducts. I have also substituted the hazardous solvents commonly used for nanofibers construction for green solvents that are safer and not bioaccumulative.

However, having a good idea is not the same as developing technology. Nanotechnology is still “state of the art” and to turn this idea into a real business of having nanofiber production at industrial levels, I have a long way ahead of me. This process is still missing.

As a Ph.D. student, on my way to achieving a degree, I am gaining as many experience as possible. Primarily this means acquiring expertise related to polymers science, chemical ecology, and interacting with other scientists and research groups to enhance the interest in the further development of alternative technologies for agricultural production. That space of interaction is mainly found during meetings and congresses, and part of the seed money received from the N-GAGE grant will be used for that purpose.

Speaking to the participants of the IUPAC 2019 Congress

My journey over nanotechnology started in 2012, where I began to work for a nanotech company in Brazil during college. I was so amazed by the giant path of possibilities that nanofibers offer as solutions for the complete chain of food production systems, from farm to plate, that I decided to do my master on that subject, and kept working with them for some few years after graduation. I still have a long way to go, a lot to learn, and a lot to explore.

Over the years, as an Agronomist Engineer, one of my primary objectives is to contribute with science for the production of real applications, which can be cheaper, safer, and more effective than the already existing ones. And to get to that, I have learned that interdisciplinarity is mandatory, and finding partnerships to develop innovative projects is significant for success. More than that, as a scientist in the field of applied sciences, it is beneficial to build diverse skills, and communication is one of those.

During coaching, I realized that I had to present science reasonably and keep the details for papers and other publications. That is one of the most challenging steps, considering that I was trained to stay tuned to the methodology and analyze data statistically. The training that we receive and the support material provided by IUPAC N-GAGE Programme serve as constructive support and still helps me a lot to develop this ability.  

Since my last report, the electrospinning system has arrived, and I have started to test different polymers formulations for nano dispensers production for repellent substances based on the odors found on clove essential oil. I know I still have a long path to walk, and that many challenges are coming, but I’m also pretty sure I have walked a considerable road since I become involved with the N-GAGE Programme, and I’m thankful for that.

Bruna Czarnobai de Jorge, N-GAGE Champion

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