Uncontrolled growth of alien plants
The story begins with a work visit of SPPS in the South African municipality of eThekwini. The municipality is facing an urgent problem with the overgrowth of water hyacinth.
The effects of the water hyacinth are:
- biodiversity destruction
- oxygen depletion and reduced water quality
- breeding grounds for pests and vectors
- blockage of waterways
Some water hyacinths grow up to 2 to 5 metres a day and double their population in two weeks. The invasiveness of the hyacinth is related to its ability to clone itself. Each plant can produce thousands of seeds each year and these seeds can remain viable for more than 28 years. An urgent issue that needs to be resolved.
eThekwini is looking for an affordable and structural solution. SPPS steps in to take the initiative for a commercial solution to the problem. Though SPPS has an extensive network of private and government contacts in this region, the company can’t solve the problem on its own. It’s being dependent on third parties.
SPPS consulted Gido, a company that is working on a similar sustainability project in Holland. Together they approached Millvision and Ripple-A for their expertise in the project. This resulted in a shared conviction: together we can transform a large-scale social and business problem to an ecological and economic opportunity.
From problem to opportunity
Together we are aiming to conduct market research for a start up company that develops biomass based products, run a production facility and create access to the market. We investigate product opportunities and sales market. We organize a value chain: harvesting the plant, testing the quality and compatibility of the raw material, developing a recipe and developing and selling an end product.
The water hyacinth can be used for:
- treatment of waste water
- medicinal use
- furniture, handbags and rope
- potential as bioherbicidal agent
- potential for biobased products in packaging
Mid-term goal: run a production- and sales company in cooperation with a local partner and set up a Fiber Application Center for further development of biobased products.
Long-term goal: control the growth of the water hyacinth and upcycle the organic waste streams.