Edible cutlery | Narayana Peesapaty | TEDxAmsterdam

Edible cutlery | Narayana Peesapaty | TEDxAmsterdam


Translator: Rhonda Jacobs
Reviewer: Peter van de Ven The cat was not yet out of the bag, I expect the [inaudible]
pull the cat out of the bag. But I’m going to pull it
out of my pocket – and that is this. Have you ever thought you can eat a spoon? (Crunches) (Laughter) You can eat it. This is in response to the fact
that change is inevitable, and we’re suffering
too much of changes in our life. One change is a lot of plastic. I created this edible cutlery as an alternative
to plastic, disposable cutlery. And I want to say that through this story,
through this journey, I want to take you through
what I have actually done in order to achieve this. The change that I was trying
to address is water scarcity. I come from India, and in India,
more than half of our nation is living under severe
groundwater scarcity conditions, groundwater depletion,
in terms of quality and in quantity. Edible cutlery and groundwater depletion,
what is the connection? That’s what I will talk to you about now. We have- I’ve been looking at
why is groundwater depleting. Is it because of less rain
due to leaching of groundwater when you lose rain water? But I found that over
the five-year moving average, I found that long-term data shows there’s no significant change
in the total precipitation. That means the rainfall
is almost constant. Then why is groundwater depleting? Then I realized that the groundwater
lifting is mostly done by the farmers, and they are moving
into unsustainable agriculture. The moment the farmer strikes groundwater, he’s shifting from
dryland crops like millet, which is taking a downward trend, and is replacing it
with water-guzzling rice. To give you an idea of what it means,
one acre of rice, not cultivated, the water sill can support
60 acres of millet. In other words,
if you look at it conversely, one acre of millet,
which is being replaced by rice, water extraction is going up
60 times, or 6,000 percent. This, in my opinion,
is a sheer waste of natural resources. I say this because over the years, we are looking at a steady, constant rotting of rice in the warehouses. Millions of tons of rice
is rotting in the warehouse, and we need not produce so much rice. And every year, in spite of millions
of tons of rice rotting in the warehouses, every year, on average, 200,000 hectares
of new area is [being planted with] rice, and this has to be stopped. If we can bring down the proliferation
of rice area getting added every year, the depleting trends in the groundwater
will reverse and it’ll start replenishing. That was my motivation. I wanted to understand, why is it
that rice is coming up so much, and I understood that millet
is losing its demand in the market, and hence farmers have shifted to rice. In order to nullify that, or negate that,
I wanted to create a market for millet, and my solution was edible cutlery. I made these spoons
which you just saw me eating, I made chopsticks, I made soup spoons,
I made a whole lot of stuff, everything that can be used
to lift food into mouth. You can have your coffee stirrers,
you can have your forks, you can have anything that you need
to lift food into your mouth. And these are made of millet. The beauty about millet
is they are complex carbohydrates, so they do not turn soggy very soon. Even when put in hot liquids, hot water, they don’t turn soggy,
they don’t fall off. And another beauty about this
is that we do not use any preservatives, any chemicals, they’re one hundred percent
natural flours, kneaded with water, shaped and baked. Then we got adventurous. We thought, hey, this is flour,
why can’t I make it more exciting? So I added salt and pepper.
That is what I ate. You can add sugar,
and you got sweet spoons. You add vanilla, you got a vanilla spoon. You add lemon on it,
and you got a lemon spoon. And you got ginger or cinnamon; ginger-garlic, and I started
getting too adventurous. Suddenly, I can imagine
wearing a chef cap. It is coming out more tasty,
and I don’t add any fat in it. And it is very healthy. So every which way, we come out
with a product that’s very good. And I didn’t stop there. This is how the package looks. Earlier, I was packing it
in plastic shrink films, but I was always feeling guilty
for using plastic because my motive was anti-plastic. And then packing it in plastic
was something I didn’t really enjoy. Then I came across a paper
which is heat sealable, does not have any plastic
lamination inside – the lamination is potato starch – and using that, we are able to create
packaging that is biodegradable and heat sealable nevertheless. That way we have come out with our product
that is extremely environment friendly. Having said so much,
am I able to achieve my mission of creating a market,
creating a demand for millet? No. I have to clearly
understand the market better. I understood that in the market, you and I are not the people
who are going to buy cutlery in bulk. It is being purchased by the caterers. To them, cutlery is just an input, and as any typical business is, they will look at input costs
as low as possible. So, if you can see the history of it,
you first had the steel spoons, and then the cost of replacing lost,
misplaced or stolen spoons was high. In response to that
came the aluminum cutlery. And then, even that
was a little on the high side, and then came the mid-80s,
the plastic spoon, and friends, the entire aluminum cutlery
manufacturing industry got wiped out. But, we all hate plastic,
that’s why it’s in the black background. We don’t want plastic; we hate it. And then came bioplastic. Bioplastic still has not made
any impact in the market because it is still expensive. So as you can see, the price of bioplastic
is higher than the plastic. And the new kid on the block, we,
have come out with a product which is as cheap as plastic. We don’t need to suffer plastic any more. And in the process,
I’m hitting two birds with one stone. On one hand, I’m able
to get groundwater preservation. And on the other hand, I’m coming out
with an alternative to disposable cutlery. We don’t need
to suffer plastic any further. The market initially
had given me a lot of challenges. To begin with, challenge number one,
is the product itself. When I was going to people and saying,
“Hey, you can eat up a spoon,” he says, “Hey, what are you talking?
Are you crazy, man?” Nobody believed me
that you can eat up a spoon. When I tell them that this is a spoon
that contains no chemicals, no preservatives, nothing. It is one hundred percent
natural, organic- natural product, not organic product, one hundred percent natural product,
people were never believing me. And it’s only over a period of time
and sustained efforts and then through social media
that today I’m having a huge market. Today, in a span of one month,
more than $385,000 of pre-paid orders have already been received. That is the kind of market response
we got from all over the world – Swaziland to Iceland. Oh boy. I certainly started
getting back to my atlas to understand which country’s where. (Laughter) The second one is the product testing, and at the product testing,
I had the people who initially doubted me, who were very skeptical,
started really loving it. I’m sure you also will be
once you get your hands on a spoon. And the market is immense
and it is emerging. So, I hope through this talk of mine, I would be able to remove 120 billion- that is my target
for the next three years. I am planning to remove
120 billion plastic cutlery weighing about 1.2 million tons of plastic
from getting added into the garbage. I want, through this talk of mine,
to send a message that to solve complex problems
there are very simple solutions, and one such simple solution
is a spoon you can eat and not throw away, and if you do want
to throw away, don’t worry, within two days it degenerates. That is provided the stray animals
don’t eat it up sooner. Thank you. (Cheers) (Applause)