The Sri Lanka Institute of Nanotechnology (SLINTEC), a one-of-a-kind public-private partnership aimed at developing advanced technologies, has introduced home-grown nano-fertilisers to the market with the aim of uplifting the local agriculture industry.
In our agro-based economy, agriculture has been a vital driver of poverty reduction in the country, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, economic instability, and the increasingly tangible effects of climate change, the industry has suffered a significant blow in the recent past.
In order to boost the industry and support farmers who are the backbone of Sri Lanka’s economy, SLINTEC has been working on novel innovations that could dramatically improve their way of life and increase their contribution to the economy significantly. One such novel technology is SLINTEC’s very own nano-fertiliser, invented by Prof. Nilwala Kottegoda and her team of experts.
SLINTEC’s nano-fertiliser received four US patents and was rated as a global first by the World Intellectual Property Organisation, while Prof. Kottegoda, who headed this project, was selected as one of the nine most inventive women scientists due to this invention. The product boasts a 40% nitrogen loading capacity, noting a 25-40% nitrogen saving and 5-15% in yield improvement, particularly for tea and rice.
Nano-fertilisers are extremely minute particles carrying nutrients that are delivered to crops in a controlled manner. The benefits of such slow-release nano-fertilisers have been documented, with it notably having the potential to improve Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE) and prevent waste therefore, environmental problems.
Slow-release fertilisers improve release efficiency and quality as the nutrients are released over time, thereby providing sufficient quantities of macronutrients required for higher crop yields. Moreover, they could reduce the usage of urea, which in turn, would help lower its carbon footprint, meaning a notable reduction in the use of fossil fuels for production and emission of greenhouse gases.
Recently, a confusion also arose regarding the importation of nano-fertilisers from India. Speaking on SLINTEC’s own unique product, SLINTEC Chief Executive Officer Dr. Nareshkumar B. Handagama clarified that the two nano-fertilisers are fundamentally different; especially the method of application and plant uptake mechanism.
“While both the Indian import and SLINTEC’s invention are nano-fertilisers, they are distinct in a variety of ways. SLINTEC’s product comes in a solid form and is dispensed into the soil as a controlled-release pellet, transporting nutrients (Nitrogen) via the natural root system. It contains urea nanoparticles anchored to a nano-hydro-apatite scaffolding as a transport vehicle to travel via the root system,” he said, adding, “The Indian import is a liquid that is sprayed onto the leaves, and the uptake is supposed to be via the stoma. It is believed that it comprises nano-urea that is anchored to a sugar scaffolding.”
Talking about the significance of SLINTEC’s nano-fertiliser, Dr. Nareshkumar further explained: “We should make use of our product to achieve scientific development in agriculture in Sri Lanka. As a country, Sri Lanka has much to gain by supporting and uplifting the local agriculture industry, which currently contributes around 8.4% to the country’s Gross Domestic Production (GDP)but stands to grow much more with the right mix of skills and technology.
Sri Lanka Institute of Nanotechnology (SLINTEC) is the first public-private research institute in Sri Lanka and a pioneer in nano and advanced technology research in the country. Established in 2009, SLINTEC’s fields of research include energy, electronics, minerals and composites, novel polymers, advanced agricultural technology, and more.