My PestiSorb Project: What I learned and how I’m moving forward

As the famous Chinese proverb of Lao Tzu says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. Taking the first step of joining the IUPAC Next Generation Program’s idea contest was indeed a right choice. Now that my PestiSorb project is successfully completed, I would like to share in this blog post this project’s story and my overall learnings.

Objectives and Accomplishments

Originally, the project’s objective is to develop activated carbon from an agricultural waste and use it to remediate/clean the washings that result from cleaning a pesticide application equipment, also known as the pesticide rinsate. The developed activated carbon will be called PestiSorb – coined form the words pesticide and adsorb. This general objective was broken down into several specific objectives.

To develop PestiSorb from fruit peel wastesBanana peel and pineapple peel were converted to carbon and activated to produce two types of Pestisorb.
Evaluate the use of PestiSorb in the remediation of pesticide rinsateAnalysis of the PestiSorb-treated rinsate using Rapid Bioassay for Pesticide Residues (RBPR) indicates that PestiSorb is effective in significantly removing the pesticide methomyl from the rinsate.
Characterize PestiSorb and validate pesticide reduction data using analytical testsElectron microscopy results confirmed that the produced banana peel carbon and pineapple carbon are successfully activated. The result of chromatographic analysis validated the RBPR results that both PestiSorb are effective in the remediation of pesticide rinsate, removing > 94% of methomyl residues.
Build capacity of stakeholders on the use of PestiSorb for the remediation of pesticide rinsateDue to the travel and mass gathering restrictions brought by the Covid19 pandemic, the activities necessary for the completion of this objective were not accomplished.
Explore the business potential of PestiSorbA business model for PestiSorb was created and presented during the Business Summer School at Ghent University. A prototype product packaging for PestiSorb was developed, as shown in the images below.

Challenges and Opportunities

A lot of technical factors can affect the production of the activated carbon. If all these factors will be investigated, the time allotted for the project’s implementation will not be enough. So, the challenge is to develop the product in the given time frame and to ensure that it is effective in the remediation of pesticide. By prioritizing and focusing only on the most essential factors and tasks, and managing time effectively, this challenge was overcome. Another challenge is exploring the business potential of PestiSorb and answering the question “How can I bring this product to the market?”. As somebody without a business background, this really is a big challenge. Fortunately, the IUPAC N-GAGE Program equipped me with the necessary skill set and mindset through my participation to the Business Summer School and Prof. Ludo’s mentoring at Ghent University. Through these golden opportunities, I was able to develop a business model and understand key concepts and practical considerations that are essentially needed by a potential entrepreneur.

The biggest challenge came near the end of the project. A 3-month temporary halt of the project implementation occurred due to the covid-19 pandemic. The final experiments where postponed due to the closure of the laboratory. In addition, travel restrictions also postponed the external validation tests and delayed the capacity building for potential users of the products, together with the product promotion. Eventually, with the easing of lockdown, the laboratory became accessible and external validation tests were also conducted.

Learnings from the IUPAC NGAGE Program

Throughout my IUPAC N-GAGE journey, I learned a lot in terms of technical, entrepreneurial, personal, and social aspects. It boosted not only my knowledge but also the skills needed in the planning, implementation, and evaluation of a project. In terms of the technical aspect, I learned the lab scale production of activated carbon from fruit peels and remediation of pesticide rinsate through adsorption. I also learned the utilization of experimental design, data analysis and evaluation, and the optimum use of resources to develop a product.

In addition, I learned the financial, legal, and entrepreneurial concepts that would be helpful in bringing a developed product to the market. I was able to acquire an overview of what is needed in establishing a business and understand the importance of value proposition and customer relations in the success of a venture. I also learned and applied project management skills in order to complete milestones in a timely and efficient manner.

Lastly, through this project, I was able to know myself better and confirmed my strengths and identify the areas that I need to improve on. I get to understand the relevance of connecting to different people to gain various perspectives and the importance of integrating all the skills, knowledge, and passion in order to have a successful project.

Moving Forward

Upon the completion of the project, the way forward is the preparation of patent application documents and the development of a scientific poster for an international conference on crop protection, followed by a journal publication. I hope that using these milestones, potential partnerships will arise and will lead to the scaling up, marketing, and utilization of PestiSorb to achieve a more sustainable crop protection.

Eric Jhon Cruz – N-GAGE Champion

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