Earthshot Prize winner and SSE India fellow, Vidyut Mohan

2 Dec 2022

As excitement builds for the announcement of 2022’s prestigious Earthshot Prize winners, Vidyut Mohan tells us how his journey to winning last year’s “clean our air” category began on the SSE India Fellowship Programme.

Earthshot Prize winner Vidyut Mohan

Credit: Earthshot


The Earthshot Prize

Initiated by Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, The Earthshot Prize is like the Oscars for high-impact solutions to environmental problems. It brings a generous sprinkle of glitz and celebrity to this vital work, along with worldwide media coverage. And crucially – for the five winning innovators – £1m investment for scaling their innovation.

See the moment Vidyut’s company Takachar is announced as one of the inaugural Earthshot Prize winners.

Vidyut’s three-minute elevator pitch for Takachar

Having developed pioneering technology to prevent the burning of agricultural waste, Vidyut emphasises the need to focus on customer benefits when describing his product.

“We’re trying to deliver environmental justice by enabling smallholder farmers to create value out of their agricultural forest waste, but utilising them to create valuable products like fuels, fertilisers, activated carbon etc. This helps them earn extra income and create livelihood opportunities in the villages, but also at the same time it helps prevent air pollution arising out of the open burning of crop residues, and also fights climate change by sequestering carbon emissions through some of our products like fertiliser.

Line drawing of a tractor towing Takachar's device to convert crop residues into sellable products. Credit: Takachar

Takachar’s device for converting crop residues into saleable products. Credit: Takachar

“To enable this we’ve developed small scale, low cost, portable equipment that farmers can just lash behind tractors, take it to the farms and process their agricultural waste and add value to them in situ.”

Earthshot Prize winner Vidyut Mohan 2

Credit: Earthshot


How did SSE India help?

“That’s when I’d say everything started”

Vidyut says of the SSE India 2016-17 Fellowship Programme. “Our first pilot was also during the SSE Programme, so you know I would say being an SSE fellow was the starting point for me.”

First steps to the Earthshot Prize: A group photo of the SSE India fellowship cohort 2016-17

Second from the right in this graduation photo is Shalabh Mittal, CEO of The School for Social Entrepreneurs, India. Vidyut stands beside his right shoulder.

Shalabh elaborates. “When (Vidyut) joined he was in a full-time job, in the middle of the programme he became part-time, and by the time he graduated from the fellowship he was full-time running his enterprise.”

“The programme helped me in numerous ways.” Vidyut continues “I would definitely like to highlight Action Learning as a pillar of the programme that really helped me as an entrepreneur get my grounding and get my bearings right – both on a personal front as well as on a professional front. So I would say I loved Action Learning and loved participating in those sessions, and I later became an Action Learning Facilitator myself.”

“Other cohort members became really close friends – literally like a family. We’re always there for each other in our professional and personal journeys. You know for an entrepreneur that’s one of the most important things because generally when you’re doing something that’s not very traditional.”

“It’s good to be on the same boat with people who are working on equally crazy and innovative ideas and to be able to share the journey with them.”

No substitute for hard work

Vidyut is modest about his achievements and generous with crediting others. He’s clearly a person of exceptional ability and put in the hard graft to develop his knowledge before becoming involved with SSE.

“My education in mechanical engineering and energy technology grounded me to work on thermo-chemical methods of converting biomass and producing biochar is one of those methods – so that’s how I really got into this specific area of biomass conversion.”

Could SSE help you become an Earthshot Prize winner?

We help thousands of people develop ideas that improve the environment and support their communities through our courses in the UK, India and Canada. Learning with us could improve your prospects of achieving social impact by running a successful business. Many fellows find the process as rewarding as Vidyut, learning about their venture, themselves, and connecting with people who become part of their journey. Winning international prizes for repairing planet Earth is a welcome and unusual bonus.

The 2022 Earthshot Prize winners will be announced on Friday 2 December. Get a blast of eco-positive inspiration on the Earthshot Prize website or by watching BBC coverage of the awards ceremony on Sunday.