Exploring sustainability

The Water Hyacinth Problem

The water hyacinth, though beautiful, is one of the world’s most damaging aquatic plants, capable of blocking access to rivers and killing fish. Over the last several decades, the water hyacinth has spread across the world rapidly, starving water of oxygen, blocking sunlight, and threatening the overall health of aquatic ecosystems. Boosted by climate change, the water hyacinth is causing harm in more than 100 countries, impeding development, access, and growth. In-Between International is a start-up focused on exploring sustainability; in this case, it is through discovering methods of containing and treating this plant, utilising its benefits while reducing its impact on public health. We sat down with Rebeka Bahadorani, Chairman of In-Between International’s Board, for a discussion of her vision for the company and her journey so far.

In this series of blogs, we explore Rebeka’s experiences, discover In-Between International’s plans and speculate about the future; how far we can go with innovation and sustainability? This first piece introduces Rebeka and her journey so far.

Rebeka has been Chairman of the Board of In-Between International since its conception in 2010. Spurred on by the desire to help alleviate the damage caused by the pandemic of the water hyacinth, Rebeka and her team have created CYNTHIA®, a natural fibre that can be used in building and construction, through specialised treatment of the water hyacinth.

What is the mission for you and In-Between International?

“Our vision is to transform a pandemic – the water hyacinth – which is one of the most invasive plants, into a sustainable activity providing an impactful societal and economic value as well as a positive environmental benefit.” By discovering how the water hyacinth can be harvested for good use, the company is set on bringing its research to the market in the form of a tangible product. Ultimately, the goal is “to allow efficient management of invaded rivers, freeing governmental expenses allocated to address the Water Hyacinth pandemic, while being an inexhaustible & profitable new industrial material, with easily replicable facilities worldwide.”

How did you become interested in your sector?

Rebeka firmly believed that there must be a solution to this pandemic, because everything on Earth should have a purpose. So, she decided to embrace the challenge, looking for a potential benefit this plant could offer to society. With this in mind, In-Between International researched the technical properties of water hyacinths in an attempt to harness them. CYNTHIA® was born from this passion, a raw material with a seemingly indefinite source.

What are some things you do to keep you interested, updated and inspired at In-Between International?

“It is when we share our story and our goal with potential partners, customers, research institutes, etc… Their reactions are always very positive, giving us the energy to go further. We always learn and discover things during these exchanges, which bring new challenges we want to tackle.”

What is key to your personal success?

For Rebeka, it is perseverance. She never gives up. She surrounds herself with good partners and takes risks, using her imagination to turn this start-up into an industrial adventure.

What are some of the most surprising lessons you learned along the way?

“The biggest surprise may definitely be the international aspect of this project. Regardless of country or culture, people listen to our story and fall in love with it. They want to be on the boat with us. Another surprise is the discovery that this plant could really be the raw material of the future for so many everyday applications. So far, nobody has thought about it.”

What is the best advice you have ever received?

Since it began exploring sustainability options, In-Between International has partnered with a number of environmental enterprises, one of which is the Solar Impulse Foundation. The Foundation has identified over one thousand clean and profitable solutions to sustainability challenges, one of which being In-Between International. Rebeka was inspired by a quote from Bertrand Piccard, the company’s founder: “On your way there will be plenty of people to tell you that it won’t work, but in fact nothing is impossible. Believe in your dreams.”

This is the first of three articles in a series about In-Between International and innovation. The next article in the series, focusing on In-Between International’s new product, will be available soon. For more insights from Proco, click here

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