The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) made a shocking revelation in 2011. In a first-of-its kind survey on milk adulteration the authority found that 70 percent of the milk in India is contaminated. Most Indians are consuming detergent and other contaminants along with milk without even realising it and consumers are largely helpless. How do you tell whether the milk you’re drinking is fit for consumption or not? For all you know you could be drinking poison in the name of nutrition.
This horrified two students at IIT Bhubaneshwar enough to do something about it. Pravir Singh Gupta and Partha Ghosh decided that it was time one stopped relying on government authorities and found a way to empower consumers instead. This led them to create Drink Pure - a device that would allow consumers to detect impurities in milk for themselves.
“Frequent reports of adulteration of milk with harmful chemicals, associated health hazards and lack of government surveillance for such incidents - inspired us to come up with the idea of Drink Pure – a simple take-at-home test to check milk for adulteration,” says Pravir.
Most home based methods to test adulteration check only for water and are more often than not time consuming. The tests to detect chemical based adulteration use chemicals themselves and can only test for a limited number of contaminants at a time. Each chemical requires a different test and busy householders decide to forgo these entirely to save on time. This is where Drink Pure comes in.
“Drink Pure is a handheld device that uses semiconductor based sensors to detect adulteration in milk," explains Partha. "It does not require any chemical reagents to detect adulteration."
Pravir chimes in with the philosophy that has led the two of them to develop Drink Pure in the first place. “I strongly feel innovators need to focus on empowering consumers,” he says. "This is because in developing countries consumers are more likely to be cheated as producers take advantage of lax government agencies that fail to prevent it.”
However, the project has run into a familiar roadblock known to all budding inventors - shortage of funding.
“The design of the product is ready,” says Pravir. “However, currently we are trying to procure equipment to manufacture sensors. Some equipment we have managed to get but the rest is pending. Shortage of funding is the major challenge we are facing. We need an industry collaboration to help us manufacture a prototype.”
In their final year of B-tech at IIT Bhubaneshwar, the two hope to see their project come to fruition in the next couple of years. While, Pravir dreams of making it big as an entrepreneur, Partha wants to become a scientist and this – their respective areas of expertise and interests – they say is what makes them such a great innovating team.
The two 22-year-olds are currently working on a ‘surveillance system for smart cities’ and have filed for a few patents together. When asked will the partnership survive graduation, both insist in unison “Of course!”
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