Hasham Tanveer, Pakistan, 18
Basic Human Needs: Food, Water
In 2015, a drought caused a severe water shortage in Hasham’s community of Lahore, Pakistan, forcing his family to transport drinking water each day from external tanks. That same year, Hasham heard about drought in another region of Pakistan, leading to famine and claiming thousands of lives. When he learned in chemistry class about hydrogels revolutionizing agriculture, Hasham grew determined to use this solution to address food and water security. He teamed up with a polymer chemist, and after two years of experimentation, Hasham developed Solvify. The super-absorbent-particle, which is made from non-hazardous and biodegradable waste materials, can retain water weighing 500 times its own weight. When applied to soil, Solvify reduces the need for water by 70%, reduces the need for fertilizer by 50%, and increases crop yield by 20%. Hasham founded his social enterprise “Solvify.org” to democratize his solution. In 2018, his startup won first prize at the Diamond Challenge for High School Entrepreneurship at the University of Delaware, where he also received an $11,000 grant used to pilot Solvify with 200 farmer families. That same year, Hasham was invited to the Quarter Zero Summer Entrepreneurship Boot Camp, where he and his team won the Most Innovative Startup award. Hasham is currently exploring how to use Solvify to make lands affected by desertification, able to grow crops again. He wants to continue using chemistry to create sustainable solutions that achieve not only food and water security, but also meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals.