At The Age of 15 She Invented Building Material From Indian Rice Waste
After seeing the environmental hazards that burning rice waste was causing at her family farm in North India, then-15 year old Bisman Deu saw an opportunity to create something useful, and developed an environmentally sustainable building material out of the farm’s biggest waste product.
She’s 18 now, and finishing school in Chandigarh, but Deu is on a journey with her product, Green Wood, as it becomes more relevant now than ever before.
Bisman Deu speaks at a UNICEF State of The World’s Children Conference 2015 in New York. Photo courtesy of UNICEF.
To understand Deu’s product, one needs to understand the levels of dire pollution that the entire North India region suffers as a result of two major burning seasons for farmers. The first round is in May, during the heat of summer when wheat chaff is burnt and rice crops are sown, and the second in November when rice paddy is burnt and wheat crops are sown.
Deu’s family farm in the North Indian city of Amritsar grows both wheat and rice.
After seeing the burning of the waste products during evening walks with her dad, Deu, who had moved back to India with her family after spending most of her formative years in the U.K., realized that everyone around her was suffering from breathing problems as the air clouded over with the smoke.
“I started researching pollution,” she says, “then I researched the properties of rice husk; it has a high silica content, is waterproof, and termite resistant,” she says.
Bisman Deu, inventor of building material Green Wood, stands with her product. Photo courtesy of Bisman Deu.
With research in hand she went on to experiment in her mother’s kitchen, mixing the leftover rice husk with resin and baking it – to form a prototype product, which she named Green Wood. She saw this particle board forming the base building block for housing in rural communities.
“It’s affordable, sturdy,” she says, “instead of cutting wood.”
The idea is to reduce the amount of rice waste that is left for farmers to burn, thereby significantly reducing the levels of pollution that spread across the region.
With sustainability as a large part of the product’s promise, Deu chose to name her product ‘Green Wood’. “I’m actually pretty happy with the name,” she says, “it was a catchy name so I thought of going with it.”
After creating the initial prototype, Deu got two other students to join her in forming a team and they entered HP’s 2013 Social Innovation Relay competition which asked high school students to come up with innovative business products. Green Wood was chosen a winner out of 43,000 student entries globally.
In 2014, Deu was invited by UNICEF to be a keynote speaker and panelist at their State of the World’s Children event in New York.