Chicken feather, a slowly-degrading waste that pervades the vicinity of a poultry farm for years, causes enormous pollution with no easy means of disposal. However, a project pursued by the Sri Padmavati Mahila Viswa Vidyalayam offers a solution with twin applications that not only gets rid of the menace, but also makes productive use of it by converting it into chicken feed and soil nutrients.
As per a study, with 400 million chicks being processed across the world every week, an estimated 25,000 million tonnes of feather are rendered waste across the world.
“Similar to hair, feather is a typical example of pure keratin protein, in which nutrients are locked up and bound in keratines. India stands fifth in terms of generating feather waste, which is either dumped into landfills or incinerated. The project taken up by V.V. Lakshmi, a retired professor of microbiology at Sri Padmavati Mahila Viswa Vidyalayam (SPMVV) under DSIR’s Promotion of Research in Individuals, Startups and MSMEs (PRISM) sticks to the adage ‘wealth from waste’. The project’s stature got enhanced and scope got widened when DBT’s Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) supported it under Biotechnology Ignition Grant (BIG).
Though keratin waste is processed by chemical treatment to produce feed or fertilizers, it is either considered low in nutritional value or economically uncompetitive, and is hence not reckoned as a viable option.
“Feathermeal is a source of protein for farm animals and fertilizer for organic farming, but the slow release of nitrogen makes it less nutritive and less remunerative,” Dr. Lakshmi told The Hindu. By introducing soil micro organisms from Tirumala, Dr. Lakshmi initiated a fermentation process. Keratenase enzyme, a most-sought-after product in feed, fertilizer, detergent, leather, textile, biotechnology and biomedical industries, is isolated in the first three days. The subsequently-derived Keratenase Treated Feather (KTF) is used to produce poultry feed and organic manure.
“The process is complete with the extraction of three products, making it totally eco-friendly,” says Dr. Lakshmi, brimming with pride. Farmers dependent on fish waste or soyabean can now make their own nutritional feed from feather, making poultry viable.
Her startup ‘Sri Dharani Agrotech’, launched under the mentorship of IKP Knowledge Park, Hyderabad, is now incubated in Women Biotechnology Incubation Facility (WBIF), a state-of-the-art facility at SPMVV campus. She has filed for a patent for the indigenous technology of producing organic fertilizer from feather waste.