1 year review of ffem

Posted by Samuel Rajkumar on 2018-06-06 00:00:00 +0000

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ffem was registered on 6 June 2017, and today marks 1 year of ffem. Though it was completely unintentional, I find some symbolism in the fact that our founding day is the day after World Environment Day. I think that now, more than ever, monitoring environmental parameters is necessary.

Field testing in Assam. Image courtesy Ishan Gupta Field testing in Assam. Image courtesy Ishan Gupta

The organisation is founded on the principles of open source, open data, and maximum impact. A year later gives me an opportunity to reflect on how we have been doing.

Open Source

Being open source is the principle cornerstone of our endeavour. A year later, while I find that we have been true to this vision, our documentation has been lagging. Thanks to Yes Foundation Media for Social Change Fellowship, we are working with Anupam Vamsi to correct this.

Open source keeps us honest. However, I find competitors being vague about their technologies by alluding to their IP protection. India seems to have changed its attitude to open source. While it was highly encouraged ten to fifteen years ago, the pendulum has swung the other way and now even publicly funded research are encouraged to file patents.

Open Data

Our original idea was that every measurement with our devices would result in an open data point on a public map. A year later I find myself conflicted about this. While it is important to get the water quality parameters of every water source on a public map, should this be true of soil samples from private farms?

We also lack a good platform to display our data. I frequently find myself debating whether to build a display or wait for someone to do this.

Maximum Impact

We have made significant progress in our product offerings, and we are making slow progress in increasing our user base. An important learning is that we cannot rely on market forces solving the problem of access to drinking water - in India, at least, this is seen as a problem that the government must solve. This makes it imperative that we find other mechanisms to measure drinking water parameters.

Products

In the past year, we made several key shifts with our product. Firstly, and most importantly, we are no longer just a drinking water test kit with one or two parameters, but have grown significantly. We have worked with reducing our manufacturing so that most of our kit can now be assembled from off-the-shelf parts. This bring down prices while improving our ability to scale.

In drinking water, we now have tests for Fluoride, Arsenic III, Total Iron, Nitrate, Residual Chlorine, Copper, Aluminum, Calcium, Magnesium, Chlorides and Chromium VI. New tests are added regularly and we hope to have all important drinking water parameters by the first half of 2018. We have developed a 2-8 hour test for coliforms and fecal coliforms.

NPK and pH tests are now shipping for soil. Tests have been developed for Calcium, Magnesium, Sulphate, and Boron. We will add more parameters to the soil kit by the first half of 2018.

Our coliforms / fecal coliforms test can be adapted for use in the F&B industry. Besides bacteria, we and test for yeasts and moulds. Product development is underway to combine microscopy with ML for a more rapid coliforms / E.coli test.

Support

We have had great support from the innovation ecosystem.

We are supported by Social Alpha, and the help we get from Dhruv has been outstanding.

We were selected for the first N/Core cohort, which was quite an experience - thanks Sudha and Santosh.

We now embark on a partnership with ICRISAT to finetune our soil testing product.

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