18 April, 2008

Water hyacinth conference, patent and one stone to kill two birds

A Daily Nation report has it that the first international water hyacinth commercialisation conference will be held in Nairobi in August, organised by Hyaquip Inc of Canada and its Kenyan affiliate bearing the same name.

The report further indicates that the company has engineered equipment for processing the water hyacinth for use as fertilizer. Simon Mwaura who heads the Kenyan Office is reported to have patented a hyacinth extraction process in Canada, US and Kenya.

A search through the WIPO PCT database reveals that Mwaura is indeed the applicant and inventor of international patent number PCT/IB2004/000352 which designates a host of countries including US and Canada. The application was filed in 2004 and is titled “method of converting aquatic plants especially hyacinth into useful products”.

A search through the USPTO database could not establish the status of the application, while the Canadian database reveals that the international application entered the national phase in Canada on 21st July 2006 as application number CA 2554227.

It will be recalled that despite numerous attempts to eradicate water hyacinth by means of mechanical harvesters, it is still a big threat to Lake Victoria – the second largest fresh water lake in the world, shared by Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

According to Mwaura, there are firms willing to invest a tidy sum of money in a project to export the fertilizer to the Middle East. If this venture of making fertilizer out of the weed is successful, perhaps we may have at hand the proverbial stone to kill two birds at once – removal of the notorious weed from the fish ways of Lake Victoria as well as an answer to the scarcity and high cost of fertilizer currently affecting farming activity in the country.

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