We first wrote about Husk Power Systems, a startup that turns rice husks into energy, back in November 2008. Now the startup, which already powers an entire small town in India, has beat out over 1,000 competitors to win the Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Cisco-sponsored Global Business Plan Competition. As a result, Husk will receive a $250,000 seed round.
Husk Power Systems, founded in 2007 by University of Virginia business students Chip Ransler and Manoj Sinha, operates 35 kW to 100 kW mini power plants that convert rice husks into methane gas for energy. The plants are used to deliver electricity to small villages of 2,000 to 4,000 inhabitants in India's Rice Belt, which usually has loads of leftover husks from rice milling. Ash generated from the plants can be used as fertilizer or as an ingredient for cement.
The company's business plan won the Cisco competition based on a number of criteria: management teams, addressable market size, competitive positioning, barriers, capital efficiency, and financial projections. Husk could do well in all of these categories; its unique technology has potential customers in all of the Rice Belt, where many people live without power. And while agricultural waste is often used in the area to generate heat, it's not usually used to generate power. India doesn't lack for rice husks, either.
Husk Power Systems only operates in five villages at the moment, but it plans to expand to over 100 in the next few years. The $250,000 seed round, along with mentoring from DFJ and Cisco, should help Husk achieve its goal.