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Used Crushed Moringa Seeds To Clean Water

It has been proven that crushed Moringa Oleifera seeds can clean water in an affordable manner.

Photo of Eric Geisterfer

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Numerous studies have been done on Moringa Oleifera seeds and their ability to clean water. Here is the latest study conducted by Penn State.

There is a water treatment plant in Thyolo Malawi that uses Moringa seeds with great success and at a much lower cost than chemicals. 

The great thing about Moringa Oleifera is:

1) It's native to India.

2) It grows extremely fast so it can be scaled up at a low cost.

3) The leaves and seeds have proven anti-parasitic properties (which goes hand in hand with dirty water).

4) It's also considered to be the most nutritious plant on earth (but that's a subject for another OpenIDEO challenge).

There are a number of nonprofit or for profit ways to proceed. The general idea is for a local Indian company to teach families how to use the crushed Moringa seeds to clean their water, and distribute (nonprofit) or sell (for profit) packets of crushed Moringa seeds so families can use the packets to purify their water. If possible, while doing so, they can also teach families how to use Moringa seeds and leafs as anti parasitic medicine.

How would you describe the stage of development of your idea?

  • Conceptual Development

How big or scalable is the potential of your idea?

Since Moringa is native to India, grows very quickly and doesn't require a lot of resources to grow, it can be scaled up cheaply and quickly.

Explain the sustainability aspect of your idea

Since Moringa is native to India, grows very quickly and doesn't require a lot of resources to grow, it is easily sustainable.

What types of financing would be required for your idea to be successful?

Even though India has a low per capita income, there are plenty of rich people in India. There is no reason why they can't finance this themselves to help their own people. After all, isn't karma an Indian concept?

In-country experience

  • Not yet

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I don't live in India but I promote the use of Moringa where ever possible. This challenge was tailored made for Moringa! If you want to find out more about how Moringa can conquer malnutrition around the world go to moringainfo.org a nonprofit website that promotes the various uses of Moringa.

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Photo of Jason Shevetz
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It is absolutely fascinating. However, it looks as though in simply precipitates the visible contaminant. Bacteria and parasites are colorless. Is anyone aware of any study validating that Moringa seed actually has bactericidal properties?

Photo of Eric Geisterfer
Team

Hi Jason,
Thanks for commenting. the study conducted by Penn State which I link to, states that:"In recent years, the water-clarifying ability of Moringa powder was found to be due to a positively-charged protein called the Moringa Oleifera Cationic Protein (MOCP). When you crush the seeds and add them to water, this protein will kill some of the microbial organisms and cause them to clump together and settle to the bottom of the container.

However, the dried seed powder alone is not ideal for water purification because the organic matter from the seed will remain in the water, providing a food source for any bacteria that have not been killed. As a result, water treated with this seed does not remain safe to drink after some time in storage.

In 2012, Velegol and a team of Penn State researchers published a paper showing that MOCP can easily be attached to grains of sand. When the sand is mixed with unsafe water, bacteria stick to the sand and are killed. The newly-clean water can then be removed and stored for later use. Then the sand can be rinsed to remove the organic matter and “recycled” for another round of purification."

Photo of James
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Depending on the rich people of India really isn't a dependable idea, in my personal opinion. Usually with anything that will cost any sort of money, some incentive has to be there for investors to get involved. You may be able to get funding from charity donors or other funds such as that, if you can present a sustainable model that could be followed to implement this. I'm on sure, but are there Moringa farm already established, or is this just a native plant? Efficient farms would have to be created to grow these plants, and once again, there would have to be an incentive for these farmers to grow this plant. I love the versatility of these seed, it reminds me of Aloe Vera. Until there is a sustainable economic model behind harvesting this plant, it will be hard to really create anything or assume the rich will help. This is an awesome idea, just needs to be developed a bit more!

Photo of Eric Geisterfer
Team

Hi James, thanks for commenting. There are plenty of well developed Moringa farms in India. Just google "moringa india" and then click on videos. It's already a sustainable model in India. The biggest challenge is that a very high quality oil can be derived from the Moringa seeds which generates a higher revenue than using those same seeds for water purification.

Photo of Lipika
Team

Would be interesting to use your knowledge of the Moringa seed for water purification in combination with Water Rituals for urban settings in India.

Photo of Eric Geisterfer
Team

Hi Lipika, thanks for commenting. I've heard about the rituals related to the Ganges River but I'm not familiar with any other Water Rituals. The Moringa tree is native to India and spread to the rest of the world from there. In replying to your comment a thought just occurred to me. Why not promote Moringa as a sacred tree in India and thus facilitate & spread its use throughout India as a water cleanser and nutritional miracle? 

Photo of Lipika
Team

Thanks for your response, yes it would indeed be interesting to introduce the Moringa tree as a sacred tree.

Photo of Tanja Rosenqvist
Team

Interesting idea Eric. I like the potential dual purpose of the seeds as a great source of nutrition. Looking at the research you have provided it seems like moringa seeds are a great flocculant, but doesn't lower the levels of pathogens sufficiently for consumptions. Maybe you could combine the moringa seeds with some secondary treatment?

Photo of Eric Geisterfer
Team

Hi Tanja, thanks for commenting. To address the first part of your comment regarding dual use, it's actually the shade dried leaves of Moringa that offer the greatest source of nutrition, to find out more about Moringa leaves' nutritional content you can go to www.moringainfo.org
To address the second part of your comment, the study conducted by Penn State which I link to, states that:"In recent years, the water-clarifying ability of Moringa powder was found to be due to a positively-charged protein called the Moringa Oleifera Cationic Protein (MOCP). When you crush the seeds and add them to water, this protein will kill some of the microbial organisms and cause them to clump together and settle to the bottom of the container.

However, the dried seed powder alone is not ideal for water purification because the organic matter from the seed will remain in the water, providing a food source for any bacteria that have not been killed. As a result, water treated with this seed does not remain safe to drink after some time in storage.

In 2012, Velegol and a team of Penn State researchers published a paper showing that MOCP can easily be attached to grains of sand. When the sand is mixed with unsafe water, bacteria stick to the sand and are killed. The newly-clean water can then be removed and stored for later use. Then the sand can be rinsed to remove the organic matter and “recycled” for another round of purification."
It appears that this study addressed your question about using it with a secondary treatment.

Photo of Tanja Rosenqvist
Team

Thanks you for your answer. I am not convinced that the Moringa seeds will kill sufficient bacteria to make the water suitable for drinking (of course this will depend on the quality of the water source used). The quote to provided confirms that only some of bacterias will be killed by the seeds. The two academic papers you have referred to also confirms this. The paper by Mangale et al for example describe tests results from using Moringa seeds to clean river water. They write that: "MPN means total coli forms which are calculated
quantitative....After the treatment, MPN / 100 ml coli form
was decreased from low dose to high level dose of M. oleifera seed powder. The MPN was
present in the range 20 - 180 coli forms/ml in all samples after the treatment which indicates that
it is above the limits of WHO standards (Graph No. 10). The presence of MPN gives direct proof
of dangerous impurities of water, and therefore treated samples are not safe for drinking purpose."  In the conclusion they furthermore suggest: "If we can use combined Moringa oleifera seed powder and chlorine it can give best
results and the water can be suitable for drinking". 

I think using Moringa seeds is a fantastic idea and should definitely be further explored. There might be ways of improving its anti-bacterial abilities or maybe it can be combined with chlorine, a ceramic filter or maybe a sand covered with silver. 

Photo of Eric Geisterfer
Team

Hi Tanja, Penn State's conclusion seems to indicate otherwise in the last paragraph: "In 2012, Velegol and a team of Penn State researchers published a paper showing that MOCP can easily be attached to grains of sand. When the sand is mixed with unsafe water, bacteria stick to the sand and are killed. The newly-clean water can then be removed and stored for later use. Then the sand can be rinsed to remove the organic matter and “recycled” for another round of purification."
But to address your concern, you can siphon off the newly-clean water' and boil it to kill off remaining pathogens. So the Moringa/Sand part gets rid of the turbidity and the boiling kills the remaining pathogens.
Remember two of the parameters of this challenge are cost effectiveness at a local level, and self sustainability at a local level. Once you involve chemicals to treat the water, cost-effectiveness & self sustainability fall by the wayside.
If India really wanted to, they could build water treatment centers throughout the country to insure all its citizens had access to clean water. After all, they had the know how to send a probe to Mars. The sad reality is that, even though India is an amazing country with amazing people, its corrupt, inefficient and has a discriminatory and institutionalized caste system. That's why this challenge is trying to come up with a low cost, self sustaining local solution. 

Photo of Samantak Ray
Team

Hey we are the Design For America student group from Georgia Tech
Could we super-brand these seeds as a organic nutritional supplement for customers in the USA and use the surplus profits to fund crushed seeds for filtration purposes in villages in India?
Moringa oil is already used in food, hair products and cosmetics, the leaves are used for wounds and infections. 
We can partner with Whole Foods or Sprouts for one organic holistic product.
Could we create a fair trades system ??

Photo of Eric Geisterfer
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Hi Samantak - There is a company called Kuli Kuli Foods www.kulikulifoods.com that is already selling Moringa products through Whole Foods. The great irony is that Moringa can solve the third worlds nutritional problems but it is instead being used as a medicine (as you pointed out). For example, the Gates Foundation is trying to create a banana that is rich in vitamin A, yet Moringa is extremely rich in vitamin A. Same thing for Golden Rice Project in the Philippines. Moringa is common in the Philippines, it's known as the Malunggay Tree but it's mainly used for medicine. However, Moringa's amazing nutritional qualities are slowly spreading. For example, in the Philippines there is project called Moringaling see link www.moringaling.net
It can even be used in developed economies where people are eating too much junk food and not enough fruits and vegetables.
To find out more about all of Moringa's uses go to www.moringainfo.org

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Can the seed be used for other reasons such as cosmetic purposes? This should create a fair trade system from the seed's growing popularity. If a local business or members can benefit from the other aspects of the plant that creates the plant. There are information that the plant has other properties that can benefit people in totally different ways. We are Georgia Tech DFA and OpenIDEO. 

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We're straying from the original challenge of providing clean water, but to answer your question - yes, Moringa has multiple uses.
The leaves of Moringa are one of, if not the most nutritious plant on earth. They have the amazing quality that when you shade dry them, their nutrition factor increases by 300%-500% (with the exception of its vitamin C content which decreases by 50%) which is unheard of in the plant world. The dried leaves can be ground into powder and sprinkled on top of food to increase the nutritional value. This has already been done successfully in some countries in Africa. See the following link:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Qst8c6xvfI
The seeds themselves contain approx. 40% Oleic Acid which makes for high quality oil which is already being used in the beauty industry. Ironically, the way capitalism works, this might discourage capitalists from using the seeds to purify water and instead sell the oil because the return on investment is higher. However, what has not been tested (as far as I know) is if, after squeezing the oil out, you can use the leftover seed cake to purify water. If so, then you have a double use for the same seed - oil & water purification.
For all of Moringa's uses go to www.moringainfo.org

   

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Great inspiration Eric! It'd be interesting to explore if there are currently any orgs in India that are using Moringa Seeds to purify water. 

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Hi Shane,
I researched it and there are none. However, many studies & experiments have been conducted in India with successful results. Below are links to some of those studies and articles.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/allahabad/Drumsticks-seed-a-water-purifier/articleshow/37776610.cms

http://scholarsresearchlibrary.com/JNPPR-vol2-iss1/JNPPR-2012-2-1-89-100.pdf

http://www.academia.edu/4318398/A_study_on_water_treatment_using_Moringa_oleifera_Malavika_G