How mandarin peels inspired an impactful solution

Sparked by a conversation over food scraps one Chinese New Year, and driven by a need for more natural sanitising solutions during the pandemic, N&E Innovations' co-founders Jaslyn and Didi took matters into their own hands. 

“It all started during Chinese New Year. We were having drinks, eating mandarin oranges and nuts, and we're like, ‘Hey, there’s so much food waste!’ It was then that we decided, why not we use something that is left over from the world, and turn it into a more natural, sustainable product that could benefit everyone?” shared Didi Gan.  

Alongside Jaslyn Lee, Didi's biomedical science university classmate, the two women established N&E Innovations. An opportunity or an obstacle coincided with the Covid-19 pandemic.  

"It was during lockdown, so we actually had our first lab in a spare room in my house," Didi recalled.  

Jaslyn added, "It was like a bioreactor in her room. So that was our 'secret lab', where we conducted all our experiments, playing around with formulations. Her kids would run in and out, asking us, 'What are you all doing?'” In fact, the company’s name is inspired by Didi’s children, Nathaniel and Emma, hence N&E.   

In addition, the mass use of disinfectants and cleaning solutions during the pandemic was another source of motivation for N&E Innovation’s success.  

Didi shared, “My children have very bad eczema, so does Jaslyn. During Covid-19, there was nothing natural that we could use, as most of the products were alcohol-based. So this spurred us to create a range of products that are good for the skin, and also non-toxic.” 

Creating a sustainable future 

After months of research and development, Didi and Jaslyn's brainchild, "vikang" – an anglicised name meaning "protecting your health" in Chinese – was born.  

With this natural component, it would also help combat the global threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Jaslyn explained, "AMR is similar to when you use too much of an antibiotic and it stops working, simply because the bacteria have grown resistant to it. It's actually a big problem, as studies estimate that by 2050, the number of deaths caused by AMR will be equivalent to those caused by cancer."  

The difference with "vikang" is that it is a multi-target approach that prevents bacterial adaptation, unlike conventional chemicals like quaternary ammonium compounds, also known as quats, that only target one aspect such as the cell membrane. By utilising "vikang", N&E Innovations can produce a variety of products, including food-safe hand sanitisers, disinfectants, and speciality self-sanitising coatings for Airbus and other forms of transport that can last on surfaces for over 180 days.  

Furthermore, the leftover materials after synthesising "vikang" are transformed into downstream products such as packaging materials or even medical-grade masks, creating a zero-waste process for N&E Innovations.  

With a clear vision of empowering every facet of life with their technology, N&E Innovations secured the DBS Foundation Grant. This not only aids them in scaling up, propelling their production from one tonne to a hundred tonnes, but also lends them credibility for more adopters of their technology and access to the large network of other social entrepreneurs. 

The DBS Foundation Grant also provides the financial capability to purchase coating machines, enabling N&E Innovations to coat the insides of appliances that may attract bacteria, such as glass shelves within refrigerators.  

Their journey is not just about innovation; it's about impact. For every 1,000 bottles sold, N&E Innovations plants a tree, ensuring their commitment to environmental sustainability extends beyond their products. As Jaslyn added, "Consumers also want to play a part in environmental sustainability."  

As they march towards their goal of upcycling five tonnes of food waste annually by 2030, N&E Innovations inspires. In Didi's words, "It's to truly prioritise purpose over profits." 

Know a business with purpose that could benefit from the DBS Foundation Grant? Tell them about the DBS Foundation Grant today! 

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